One of the big storylines going into the NHL trade deadline on March 21 is the status of Flyers defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen. The 27-year-old, who the Flyers acquired from the Buffalo Sabres in the offseason for a 2021 first-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick and Robert Hagg, is in the final year of his contract. He will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and it’s unclear what the Flyers plan to do with him as the deadline approaches.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, though, negotiations between the Flyers and Ristolainen are ongoing. In the latest edition of his 32 Thoughts podcast, Friedman shed some light on the situation.
“Something else I wanted to address with Philly — there was a report out there that Ristolainen turned down 6x$6.35 or something like that? I don’t think that that’s correct in this particular case. One of the things I was wondering about was how could you turn down $36 million? It just seems really strange to me,” said Friedman.
“I don’t think he turned down a number that high. I do think they’re negotiating, so I’m curious to see where this is gonna end up, but I had heard the number was somewhere between $4 and $4.75. We’ll see where that one goes.”
In his first season as a Flyer, Ristolainen has endeared himself to a large portion of the team’s fan base due to his size — he’s 6-foot-4 and 221 pounds — and physical style of play. And according to Friedman, he’s also won over much of the Flyers locker room.
“I’ve heard the Philly players, they just love (Ristolainen). And he really likes them. But he hasn’t played in the playoffs,” said Friedman. “All of these conflicting emotions come with you.”
While Ristolainen appears to have become a magnetic presence in the locker room, his first season in Philadelphia has been far from inspiring. Responsible for a $5.4 million cap hit this season, the Finnish blueliner has managed just 13 points in 48 games while averaging well over 21 minutes of ice time per night. The advanced stats haven’t been kind to him, either. Not only does he own an abysmal 43.48 Goals For percentage at even strength, but he also allows oppositions to enter the offensive zone and create scoring chances at a higher rate (4.635 Entries w/ Chance Against per 60 minutes) than any defender on the Flyers’ roster.
Despite Ristolainen’s flaws, it’s possible he could still draw some interest at the trade deadline. As Friedman noted, Ristolainen has never played in a single NHL postseason game, and other GMs could view his physical nature as an asset for playoff hockey. The Flyers may not be able to recoup what they initially gave up to acquire Ristolainen last summer, but given the current state of the team, there aren’t many players on the roster Chuck Fletcher and company shouldn’t consider moving.
Friedman also touched on Claude Giroux’s status as the trade deadline nears, as well as the Flyers’ reported interest in Florida Panthers forward Owen Tippett. You can read more on Tippett’s potential fit with the Flyers here.