After not playing each other last season due to the COVID restrictions, the rivalry between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs should heat up this season based on the offseason transaction board. The Bruins signed veteran forward Nick Foligno after he finished last season with the Leafs as a trade deadline acquisition, and Toronto has signed both Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie to free agent contracts after they weren’t issued qualifying offers by the Black and Gold to retain their rights as restricted free agents.
One would think that would serve as motivation for Kase and Ritchie when they play against the Bruins next season, if they play against the Bruins next season. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Ritchie could certainly be an effective power forward for a Maple Leafs forward group already long on speed and skill, but he just wasn’t consistent enough with his physicality or his offensive game when it really mattered in the big moments.
It’s part of a significant roster change-over for the Bruins during the first day of NHL free agency where they’ve now brought in five new players (Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, Tomas Nosek, Derek Forbort, Linus Ullmark) that will be on the NHL roster next season.
“We signed each and every one of these players with the intention that they’re a part of our club and to have a very deep hockey team. We have a couple young players as well that are going to be integrated in there. Hopefully we have a real competitive camp,” said Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “Every player that we had the opportunity to speak with was excited about joining our group, because they know they’re competitive.
“They’re led by a core group of guys that are driven to win and we’re hopeful that all of them can assimilate seamlessly. And obviously we’ll have some challenges associated with that. But players like Nick [Foligno] and the leadership he brings, Tomas Nosek played in a highly competitive environment in Vegas, and I just think overall, we tried to add to the depth of our group.”
Kase signed a one-year contract for $1.25 million after being limited to just nine regular season games over the last two seasons for the Bruins due to concussion issues and other injuries. The 25-year-old Ritchie signed a two-year, $5 million contract with Toronto after scoring a career-high 15 goals last season as a net-front presence and occasional physical player for the Black and Gold.
While both Kase and Ritchie were made obsolete with the Boston Bruins once the B’s brought in free agent players like Foligno and Erik Haula that they clearly view as upgrades, it’s also a pretty stinging endorsement of Boston’s work at the 2020 NHL trade deadline. Kase and Ritchie were the two big acquisitions at the deadline, and both players were cut loose by the Bruins just as Danton Heinen and David Backes were cut loose by the Anaheim Ducks.