Think back to right around the trade deadline in 2020.
The Bruins were good. Very good. They were looking for a boost at the trade deadline, and found it by acquiring Ondrej Kase, a play-driving forward, and Nick Ritchie, a winger with some size.
They even got out from underneath most of the David Backes contract, and COVID-19 was a far-off concern.
And then...yeah. We all know what happened globally, but things went south for the B’s too.
Kase got concussed, Ritchie struggled to find his rhythm, the season got derailed, and the B’s were never really able to get a consistent run of play with their full squad plus the two new additions.
Monday marked the end of that brief chapter for the Bruins, with neither Ritchie nor Kase being given a qualifying offer.
(Of course, either of the two could be back on a new deal, but “we’ll take you back, just for less money” still feels like the end of a chapter regardless.)
For Kase, we all know the drill: he really never had a shot. He played just six regular season games in 2020, and just three last season.
Head injuries are brutal, and it’s fair to question if Kase will be able to continue his NHL career. We never really got to see how Kase at 100% fit in this Bruins lineup.
I personally think it’s worth bringing him back on a “show me” deal at short term and money, considering he remains a talented player and is just 25 years old.
Ritchie was a bit more frustrating. He, like Kase, had an underwhelming 2020, with little offensive production and some tough-to-swallow penalties.
But his 2021 got off to a much brighter start, and he did end up with 15 goals, a career high (in just 56 games too), which is nothing to sneeze at. He also cut back a bit on the silly penalties.
However, consistency remained an issue for him, and while he wasn’t BAD, you frequently felt like he should be contributing more (whether it was in terms of scoring or physical play or whatever else).
Again, at a reduced rate? Sure, he’d be worth having back in the mix. He can be an effective player when he’s on his game, but it’s tough to have a third line where both of your wings are super streaky.
Hindsight is 20/20, but if you’re just a year and a half removed from your big deadline acquisitions and you’re already looking to buy them back for less money, it hasn’t quite panned out as you’d hoped.
Better luck next year?
Today’s discussion topic
Your take — are Kase or Ritchie back with the team when next season begins?