The struggling winger cleared waivers on Jan. 7 and ever since then has been in limbo, at first assigned to the Leafs taxi squad and, last week, after taxi squads became inactive, assigned to the AHL Marlies, where he has yet to play.
"There's no official trade request, but I think everybody here understands it might be better to find him somewhere else to play," Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said during the 32 Thoughts segment on Hockey Night in Canada, "and I think there has been some traction in the last few days around the league."
Complicating trade talks is that Ritchie, who signed a two-year deal in the off-season with a $2.5 million cap hit each season, has a year left in his deal, Friedman said.
"If, for argument's sake the Maple Leafs were to buy him out, it would be $300,000 on next year's cap," Friedman said. "So, I don't think Toronto wants to retain anything more than that (in a trade). But, depending on how this can all go and how that can be worked out, it is believed there is some traction being gained on Ritchie around the league in clearing some room and finding him some space."
Ritchie, 26, was an off-season free agent signing by Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, potentially to provide depth scoring, with the Orangeville, Ont., native coming off a career-high 15-goal season with the Boston Bruins. He played a bunch early in the season on top line with Auston Matthews, but was gradually demoted down the lineup and didn't score his first goal of the season until Dec. 7.
In 33 games with the Leafs he had two goals and seven assists for nine points. He last played on Jan. 12 against the Arizona Coyotes.
Before signing with the Leafs in the off-season, Ritchie spent his first six seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, who drafted him 10th overall in the first round in 2014 from the Peterborough Petes, and the Boston Bruins, who traded for him in 2020.