The Edmonton Oilers need to improve the right side of their defence. With the Buffalo Sabres desperate for change and a move up the standings, Rasmus Ristolainen has entered the rumour mill. Would the Sabres trade Ristolainen and should the Oilers be calling?
Friedman – the players on the #Sabres who could generate the most trade interest is Ryan O'Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen.
— WGR 550 (@WGR550) April 30, 2018
Ristolainen’s been a polarizing player since entering the league in 2013-14. He’s played a lot of minutes on some bad Sabres teams and this was the first season he’s had a positive impact on Buffalo’s shot attempts. He’d still be an intriguing player for the Oilers. He checks a lot of boxes: right-handed shot, power play guy, signed long term, and plays a bunch of minutes.
So why would Buffalo trade him? Despite some of his shortcomings, Buffalo isn’t exactly swimming in competent defenceman and it makes you wonder why they’d consider moving him. Winning the lottery means Rasmus Dahlin steps in Buffalo’s lineup immediately, but he’s a left shot. Aside from Ristolainen, the Sabres don’t have much on the right side. Casey Nelson’s had some success but in limited time. Zach Bogosian is perpetually injured but can play some minutes when healthy. Maybe the Sabres take a run at John Carlson in free agency and move Ristolainen for help elsewhere.
Bad teams often trade good players, something we’ve seen around here a time or two, and right-handed defenceman that can score 40-plus points are always an attractive commodity.
Ristolainen would be an interesting target for Edmonton because they could give him the left-handed partner he’s lacked for so many years in Buffalo.
Rasmus Ristolainen’s most common defence partners 2013-2018:
2013-14: Christian Ehrhoff
2014-15: Nikita Zadorov
2015-16: Josh Gorges
2016-17: Jake McCabe
2017-18: Marco Scandella
Other than his rookie year with Ehrhoff and last season with Scandella, Ristolainen hasn’t had the best of help while being counted on to play big minutes. Depending on the acquisition cost, he’d have Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, or Andrej Sekera to play with along with some probable power play time with Connor McDavid.
Ristolainen’s played over 25 minutes game the past three seasons. His best results have been with Scandella by far instead of Gorges or McCabe. The Oilers could put him in a better position to succeed and he’d add an offensive element to Edmonton’s right side.
The Oilers should still be interested in Ristolainen despite his murky possession stats in the past. Right-handed defencemen that can score 40 points and play 25 minutes a night aren’t available too often and waiting for the perfect fit hasn’t helped Edmonton. Ristolainen is signed long-term at a reasonable number ($5.4 million AAV).
I’m still skeptical that Buffalo would want to move him, but sometimes bad teams do strange things. Could a deal be made around one of Edmonton’s left-handed defencemen? Or maybe the 10th overall pick, if Buffalo wants to tear it down again?
The Oilers need to improve their defence and could do a lot worse than Ristolainen. He’s an option worth pursuing if available.
Ristolainen’s Career So Far