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Ritchie Adds Size, Physicality for B's Up Front

Winger comes aboard, Heinen goes West in trade with Anaheim

by Eric Russo @erusso22 /

BOSTON - Nick Ritchie knows well the situation he's about to enter.

Despite limited experience playing against the Bruins during his five-year NHL career, the 24-year-old is well aware that a hard-to-play-against style has always been Boston's calling card.

It's also the exact kind of game that the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Ontario native takes pride in playing, which is why Bruins general manager Don Sweeney felt that adding Ritchie - in exchange for winger Danton Heinen - would benefit his club as they gear up for the stretch run.

"I've always known how good a team it was from the few times we do play them," Ritchie said after he was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks on Monday afternoon. "We've only played them a couple times in my career, but it's always been a team that is so hard to play against and it's because of that identity. They play a hard game.

"I don't know if I've been on the right side of a lot of those games out in Anaheim, but I'm glad to join a winning team now."

Video: Check out highlights of new winger Nick Ritchie

With the Bruins set for another strong run at the Stanley Cup, Sweeney believed that the Bruins were in need of some interior tenacity, leading him to identify Ritchie as a player that can use his size and strength to create more offense from the middle of the ice.

"He's done it in Anaheim and we think that he'll address some of those needs for us moving forward," said Sweeney, who completed another deal with Anaheim GM Bob Murray just last Friday when he acquired winger Ondrej Kase in exchange for David Backes, Axel Andersson, and the B's 2020 first-round pick.

"We do believe he adds an element to our hockey club that we didn't have prior to today. We're happy about it. There's some big-bodied hockey that's going to be played going forward and I think that he's a part of that."

On the flip side, Sweeney acknowledged the difficulty in parting with Heinen, who had become an important piece of Boston's developing young core in recent years. The 24-year-old, who was drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft, finishes his Black & Gold career with 103 points (34 goals, 69 assists) in 220 games across three seasons. Heinen, signed through next season at an NHL cap hit of $2.8 million, had 22 points (7 goals, 15 assists) in 58 games this season.

"I want to thank Danton Heinen, a really good young player for us. Wish him well in Anaheim…I've got a long history with Danton," said Sweeney. "Those are really difficult conversations. We just had his mom in town, you develop relationships with the family, as well as Danton and the impact he has on our hockey club. He's visibly upset.

"He knows it's a great opportunity that lies ahead for him in Anaheim. I only wished him the best in that sense. His production's been down a little bit. He's been hard on himself. But just a tremendous person and a really, really good hockey player.

"I hope he goes and flourishes there. Whether that's a reflection that I made a bad trade, I don't care. I only wish the best for him."

Video: Sweeney Wishes Heinen and Backes Well Wishes

Ritchie, whose older brother Brett played 27 games with the Bruins earlier this season and is currently in Providence, was drafted 10th overall by the Ducks in 2014 and spent his first five professional seasons with Anaheim.

"I don't know if I expected [a trade], but I'm excited now to go to a contender like Boston and a city like that," said Ritchie, who is expected in the lineup - likely alongside Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork - on Tuesday night against the Calgary Flames. "Kind of going from all the way out West to all the way to the East is going to be a really good opportunity for me and I'm really excited to get going with them."

The left-shot winger, who is signed through next season at an annual NHL cap hit of $1.5 million, has 19 points in 41 games this season - a knee injury limited him earlier this season - and set a career high with 31 points in 60 games last season. Ritchie scored a career-high 14 goals in 2016-17.

"That's what I do," said Ritchie, who notched two goals and two assists in his final game with Anaheim on Sunday night against Vegas. "I drive to the net and win puck battles and hopefully can bring in a few wins down and around the net. Hopefully I can help the team here and I'm going to take pride in playing that big game, winning battles, playing physical and driving to the net for sure."

Ritchie said he talked to his brother on Monday morning, but had not yet had a chance to have an in-depth conversation about playing in Boston. He did note, however, that it is likely the first time they have ever been part of the same team and organization.

"We would have been really young," said Ritchie. "I don't know if we ever were because of the age difference - he's two years older. It kind of never fit that. We were [teammates] in other sports like lacrosse, but not in hockey. So it's cool to be a part of the same team as of right now."

Video: Don Sweeney addresses media on Monday afternoon

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