Rasmus Ristolainen’s name has been bandied about NHL trade rumors all summer, but so far nothing has materialized. However, the Buffalo News reports that Ristolainen implied in an interview with MTV Uutiset (translation required) that he asked to be traded.
“I cannot say anything other than the fact that on the 12th of September, I will be at one of the NHL team’s training camps,” he said.
Ristolainen said he wants to keep the discussions between him and the Sabres’ front office private.
That could explain why Ristolainen has been on the block this offseason. The 24-year-old blueliner has been oft criticized by media and fans as he hasn’t developed into the No. 1 shutdown defender that the team had hoped for when they drafted him with the eighth overall pick in 2013. However, he still remains a solid top-four option on defense and many feel that he still has the potential to have that breakout season that people have expected from him. Many have thought a change of scenery might be the answer for Ristolainen, but the Sabres have been hesitant to deal him only to see him develop into a star elsewhere.
With a heavy need for top-six scoring and the emergence of last year’s top pick Rasmus Dahlin, there was plenty of talk this summer that the Sabres were considering moving Ristolainen for offensive help. However, Ristolainen’s name has continued to pop up, especially after the Sabres have added a number of defensemen this offseason after the team acquired Colin Miller from Vegas and top defensive prospect Henri Jokiharju from Chicago. Those moves have made Ristolainen even more expendable.
Ristolainen has three years remaining on his contract with Buffalo at $5.4MM per season, however, and could just as easily be forced to stay where he is if the team cannot get the asking price it is looking for. Ristolainen was also rumored to be a trade candidate at the trade deadline last season, which included rumors that the Tampa Bay Lightning had checked in on him. However, with the team’s salary cap situation and with their recent signing of Kevin Shattenkirk, it’s unlikely that Tampa Bay would revisit those conversations.