Flames trade Rittich to Maple Leafs for third-round pick

‘Big Save Dave’ is bound for the Big Smoke.

On the eve of the trade deadline, the Calgary Flames swapped popular puck-stopper David Rittich to the Toronto Maple Leafs in return for a third-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

The 28-year-old Rittich spent the past five seasons in the Flames organization, although he was unlikely to stick around this summer as an unrestricted free agent. With the Maple Leafs strapped for cap-space, Calgary agreed to retain half of his remaining salary in Sunday’s trade.

“Since Day 1, Ritter has been the ultimate teammate thanks to his positive attitude and great work ethic,” the Flames posted on their Twitter account. “Thank you for everything, BSD!”

Rittich, relegated to backup duties when the Flames signed stalwart Jacob Markstrom this past fall, has registered a 4-7-1 record, 2.90 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in a dozen starts so far during this condensed campaign.

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In Toronto, he’ll be an insurance policy behind Frederik Andersen and Jack Campbell.

There is uncertainty about how long Andersen will remain out due to a lower-body issue, while Campbell is riding an 11-game win streak that dates to the start of this season but has also missed some time because of injury.

Rittich, originally signed out of the Czech League in 2016, proved to be quite a find for the Flames.

He totalled 130 appearances in Calgary’s crease, climbing into a tie for seventh among the all-time franchise leaders with 63 victories and scoring an invite to the NHL All-Star Game in 2020.

He earned a reputation as a fiery competitor on the ice and was beloved in the locker-room, where he seldom stopped chirping.

Rittich’s final appearance in the Flaming C, as it turns out, came last Sunday against the Maple Leafs. After a 30-save performance, he was asked about the possibility that he could be moved on the rental market.

“This is my team and I want to stay with this team as long as I can,” he replied. “I’m not even looking at the trade deadline.”

A week later, he’s looking for a lift to Toronto.

Maybe his former team can help. The Flames are headed to Scotiabank Arena for Tuesday’s matchup with the Maple Leafs (5:30 p.m. MT, Sportsnet West/Sportsnet 960 The Fan).

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