For some reason, Rasmus Ristolainen can’t seem to escape trade rumors. Seemingly every summer there is some sort of report that has his name in trade talks, and this year has been no different. Today, Ristolainen popped up in reports from two different reporters on opposite sides of the continent. First, Rick Dhaliwal of Sportsnet tweeted that the Vancouver Canucks are speaking with the Buffalo Sabres about a defenseman, and suggested that it was either Ristolainen or Bogosian. Then, Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription required) wrote that not only have the the Tampa Bay Lightning shown interest in the Buffalo defender once again this offseason, but they are “far from the only team.”
While LeBrun notes that the Sabres “aren’t going to deal [Ristolainen] unless the package is absolutely right” it is interesting that his name is out there at all. The 24-year old has three years left on a contract that carries a $5.4MM cap hit, and has carried a heavy load for the Sabres over the last few seasons. While the team did go out and add Brandon Montour last season, it’s not like Buffalo is overflowing with capable defenders ready for more minutes. In fact, three of their veteran defensemen—Bogosian, Marco Scandella and Matt Hunwick—are under contract for just the 2019-20 season, meaning the team will need to find replacements before long.
The Sabres are in a tricky spot, trying to take the next step in their rebuild and contend for a playoff spot. From the massive contract they recently handed Jeff Skinner, it’s obvious that they want to stop selling off top assets just for future potential, but perhaps a Ristolainen trade could work out for both sides. After all, even with all of his offensive upside, Ristolainen has been anything but a lock-down defender during his time in Buffalo. While plus-minus obviously has its flaws as a metric, it’s still hard to overlook the -41 mark that Ristolainen recorded last season or the -143 he has for his six-year career.