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Should the Edmonton Oilers claim Nick Ritchie?

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Photo credit:Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
10 months ago
The Toronto Maple Leafs made a curious move Thursday placing depth forward Nick Ritchie on waivers.
Ritchie hasn’t played a limited amount this year, with some middling results. Averaging 12:11 in 30 games, Ritchie has scored one goal and eight points.
The on-ice results? Well, they haven’t been tremendous. At 5×5, the Leafs controlled 51.12 percent of shot attempts and 48.97 percent of the expected goals, but his raw goal numbers have struggled. He’s been on the ice for seven goals for and 12 against at 5×5. Part of this has been due to a low PDO of 97.2.
At 5×5, he’s been generating more scoring chances and high-danger shot attempts than he has in years, so he’s definitely been around the action in the offensive zone.
One of his strengths this year has been his physical play laying 11.77 hits per hour at 5×5, an element that the Oilers have been missing from their lineup.
According to hockeyviz.com, Ritchie has provided even-strength offensive impacts five percent above league average and even-strength defensive impacts four percent worse than league average.
The Oilers, meanwhile, find themselves in a curious position. Ritchie has been given lots of opportunities in Toronto this year but has yet to seize them.
In Edmonton, its bottom-six has struggled at rates we haven’t seen in years. Without Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the ice, they continue to get massively outscored 15-32 at 5×5 play.
Ritchie’s defensive play isn’t exactly a specialty, but he’s provided offence from the bottom-six in the past. His 2020-21 campaign was spent with the Boston Bruins, where he scored 15 goals and 26 points in 56 games.
The only thing that could throw a wrench in things is his contract. This past offseason he inked a two-year deal worth an AAV of $2.5-million, so if the Oilers claimed him they would have him for another season after this.
The worst move? Probably not. I’m not the biggest fan of his game overall, but at 6’2, 230 lbs, he might be able to provide a level of physicality and energy that the Oilers have missed this year. It’s not unreasonable to think he could bounce back offensively, either.
Could a third line of Ritchie, Ryan McLeod and someone like Tyler Benson work? McLeod has been one of the best bottom-six players and already has chemistry with Benson. Ritchie, meanwhile, could provide some size and jam upfront.
At the end of the day, the Oilers would need to find creative ways to deploy Ritchie in the lineup — something I’m not overly confident in Dave Tippett to do.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@oilersnation.com.

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