On Monday, teams across the NHL needed to submit qualifying offers to restricted free agents. A few intriguing names were not qualified, including Pius Suter of the Blackhawks.
One name is specifically for the Blackhawks: Nick Ritchie.
Boston did not qualify Ritchie, who is coming off a 15-goal season in which he had a $894,167 cap hit. He was credited with 102 hits in 56 games while averaging 15:22 of ice time per night.
Ritchie is a big, physical, bruising left wing who would be an ideal compliment to the Blackhawks’ current group of forwards. For the sake of comparison, Ryan Carpenter led Blackhawks forwards with 78 hits in 40 games in a fourth line role. Alex DeBrincat ranked second among Hawks forwards in hits last season.
To be clear: hits are not a reason to sign players. But the Blackhawks need to be harder to play against, and Ritchie would bring more physicality to the lineup than Chicago currently has on its roster.
Ritchie was also a big part of Boston’s powerplay last year, averaging 2:45 per night with the advantage.
His 15 goals last season were a career-high. And his 26 points in 56 games were five points short of his career best of 31, which he established in 2018-19 with Anaheim.
Blackhawks fans may not have a positive memory of Ritchie; he infamously knocked-out Michael Rozsival with one punch four years ago. But he’s the type of physical presence the Blackhawks simply don’t have on the roster.
With Suter leaving Chicago via free agency, Ritchie could be a solid replacement in the lineup in the Hawks’ middle-six forward group while also bringing more toughness to the ice. And, considering his previous contract, the cost could be in line with how the Blackhawks are looking to spend in the short-term future.
The 25-year-old winger was originally the tenth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft by Anaheim. In his career, Ritchie has scored 59 goals with 78 assists in 350 regular season games.