Saturday: Ristolainen has officially been taken off LTIR, the team announced.
Wednesday: The Flyers could soon activate defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen off LTIR, Dylan H. Robillard of Olde City Sports Network reports. However, despite returning to practice in full-contact gear yesterday, the right-shot Finn will not enter the lineup tonight versus the Islanders.
Ristolainen, 29, had missed the entire 2023-24 season up to this point with an undisclosed injury. The Flyers didn’t list him as out until October 9 – just one day before the regular season started – making him a rather unexpected absence in the lineup to kick off the campaign.
Now in the second season of a five-year, $25.5MM extension signed with the Flyers in March of 2022, the much-maligned 2013 top-ten pick had one of his best seasons in recent memory in 2022-23. Some reduced usage proved positive for his defensive impacts, skating under 20 minutes per game for the first time since his rookie season. He also notched three goals and 20 points in 74 contests.
While they may not be numbers worthy of his cap hit, Ristolainen remains an NHL-caliber player and should provide competition among the Flyers’ veterans on the backend – namely Marc Staal, who is gearing up to return from a similarly lengthy injury-related absence.
However, Ristolainen’s early-season absence has allowed other players to flourish. Nick Seeler and Yegor Zamula have the best plus-minus ratings on the team with a +10 and +11 mark despite both playing under 17 minutes a game. Their success on the defensive side of the puck, along with Travis Sanheim’s and Sean Walker’s standout play to begin the season, leaves Flyers head coach John Tortorella with some tough decisions on how to utilize Ristolainen moving forward.
With an open spot on the 23-man roster and ample cap space, the Flyers do not need to make a corresponding move to take Ristolainen off LTIR.