Souttar is free to sign a pre-contract with another team and could move on for nothing in the summer when his deal expires.
Ritchie, who left Hearts after being courted by Rangers in the early days of his playing career, reckons his old team should be pulling out "all the stops” to convince Souttar he’s better staying, continuing his development after getting over a series of injury problems and then moving on to an English Premier League team.
“I hope it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’s leaving,” Ritchie, a boyhood Hearts fan, told the Evening News. “I think Hearts are in a position now where they can keep their top players. If we want to move forward as a club and get to where we want to be then we need to do that.
“It’ll certainly be difficult with the way the market is these days, but I think they can match some other teams when it comes to these contracts and they can offer stability.
“Hearts have been loyal to John Souttar. They’ve helped him through his injury problems, helped with his rehab and recuperation, and it would be great if they could get something back for him.
“It’s a difficult one. It’s football. It’s life. It’s why I hope Hearts pull out all the stops to give him something he deserves.”