Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Should the Oilers be interested in Rasmus Ristolainen?

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?

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

Season Team Lge GP G A Pts PIM +/-
2013-14 Buffalo Sabres NHL 34 2 2 4 6 -15
2013-14 Rochester Americans AHL 34 6 14 20 22 -2
2014-15 Buffalo Sabres NHL 78 8 12 20 26 -32
2015-16 Buffalo Sabres NHL 82 9 32 41 33 -21
2016-17 Buffalo Sabres NHL 79 6 39 45 58 -9
2017-18 Buffalo Sabres NHL 73 6 35 41 48 -25
NHL Totals   346 31 120 151 171


  • BrandieBear

    I really like Risto but the only player I’d be willing to trade is Sekera. I think trading Nurse or Klefbomb would be a mistake. I think if we could get him for Sekera and something, which isn’t our first round pick this year, I’d entertain the idea. That being said you risk exposing Nurse, Bear, Klefbom, Risto or Larsson in the expansion. It’s tough to say what to do. I think staying the course is the best option unless there is a deal we can win involving Risto

    • Kepler62c

      Well said, if the Oilers can fleece the Sabres in this deal then of course you do it, I personally think Ristolainen would be 1st Pair RHD on about 20 teams in the league. BUT, I’m not in favour of trading Nurse, Klefbom, or the pick (he’s one of the players I’d move the pick for IF there wasn’t an expansion looming) – so how exactly do you fleece them? Probably a pipe dream.

  • lobby91

    Absolutely not, he’s one of the worst defenseman defensively in the NHL, Edmonton could use some 2way help, not a guy who will get 40pts with 100 going against him

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      Man have Oiler fans been conditioned to really value the picks! This is how we keep the endless rebuild going….don’t trade any good magic beans for any good players and never get better sooner! #becauseOilerfans

      • Arfguy

        Meh. I’d rather the Oilers draft and fail, rather than hearing some fans complain non-stop about how the Oilers should not have traded the pick that turned into Matt Barzal. It will also help the Oilers to stay out of further cap hell if they can have players that they can potentially insert into the roster at a lower AAV.

      • SSB1963

        Have to have some players always in the pipeline. This has been one of the problems with the Oilers for years. Not only were they abysmal at drafting after the 1st round but for years they had no farm team.

    • Spydyr

      People actually cheered this like ti is possible. Talk about not near enough not to mention Sekera waiving his MNC to go to Buffalo. It is the summer, dumber season here already.

  • Gravis82

    Are you actually a fan of the oilers? Look at his hero charts before you suggest we go after someone. He is not very good.

    Probably the worst at suppressing shots in the entire league

    • OriginalPouzar

      Berglund is commited to his club team in Sweden for one more year.

      Lagesson is coming over to North America this year (he’s a leftie) and will spend the year in Bakersfield.

      Berglund is likely to sign and come over next season but is likely to spend his first North American season in the AHL (at least most of it). He’s got a good shot to be an NHL player but its far from a sure thing and a few years away at least.

  • crabman

    If Ristolainen is available the Oilers should absolutely make a move for him. For a team, and fan base, crying for a RHD that can play big minutes and produce offense I don’t know why you wouldn’t want this player. He ticks off all the boxes and with Larsson as a shutdown Dman Ristolainen wouldn’t even need to get the toughest matchups or be relied on as heavily on the pk. He is big, physical and can score. But a player like Ristolainen won’t come cheap and maybe part of a bigger deal.
    There is smoke. Buffalo had pro scouts at each of the Oilers last home games. Who they were scouting no one seems to know but a trade could very well be in the works.

    • crabman

      like I said above, he won’t come cheap. I’m sure Edmonton has the assets to trade for Ristolainen, it’s a matter of what the cost is and should the Oilers do it. There has been lots of talk about the Sabres wanting to make moves. And after the Oilers disappointing season and a potentially desperate GM anything is possible. The Sabres had scouts st the last couple Oiler games so they have their eye on someone from the Oilers.
      Bob Stauffer had a guest connected to Buffalo on the show last week discussing the Sabres and potential deals. His guest talked about Buffalo being desperate to make changes to the roster but both agreed a Ristolainen trade just doesn’t make sense. Now with the right to Draft Dahlin that would give them a potentially dominant top pair for years. And a lefty righty pair.
      So unless both GMs lose their damn minds and do a blockbuster we probably won’t be seeing Ristolainen as an Oiler. I was just saying if he is available he is the type of player we need.

      • Big Nuggets

        Sounds reasonable. I can’t see Buffalo letting go of Risto for cheap. If he was on the Oilers and we were shopping him we would be imagining multiple first round picks and roster player coming back, or Taylor Hall. Players stats get skewed when they are on a crap team. I Ristolainen is probably a good player, at least a PP option. I’d say anyone thinking we can pull this off without losing a major piece of our team is dreaming.

        Don’t know who else Edmonton would be interested in from Buffalo. Another Reihardt maybe? Maybe they want to swap Okposo for Lucic?

    • RJ

      The other question is whether Buffalo would accept a trade offer from Edmonton. The Oilers tried to trade for Schneider and for Hamilton and they didn’t get the job done even with the best offers on the table.

  • Braindead

    That international ice can make any player look good. I’ve seen his highlights and all the open ice he has to skate in. Big deal! Nothing special. He will be a bust.

  • LordRuggles

    One of buffalo’s biggest weakness’ is their Defense, yes it is about to receive a giant shot in the arm, and having a player of Dahlin’s caliber automatically makes that position stronger, but not strong enough to go pissing away the only other halfway decent players you have. The only oilers I could see them being interested in are our d-men, they have Eichel and RoR down the middle, or depth on wing is not enviable and so I doubt they have sent scouts to watch Caggiula and Khaira, so my guess is they have interest in Nurse or Klefbom, trading either for Ristolainen is just a lateral move that leaves us where we started. Imagine chiaPete trading Nurse whose EV scoring was great and took big strides in his game for a player who, though talented offsively, is a bit of a liability in his own end. Who would you pair Ristolainen with, who will cover for his defensive short comings? If it was Klefbom and a sweetener for Ristolainen then maaayyybe, but knowing Chiarelli it would be our 10 oa + Klefbom for Ristolainen and a 7th rounder.

  • Glencontrolurstik

    I said shoot for him in January. His skill-set is exactly what we need.
    I guess I paid closer attention to him last year as I was gifted him in my hockey-pool. Go for it, maybe for a second round pick?

  • Rockinghockey

    I think he would be the perfect second pairing with Klefbom.
    Maybe the we’re looking at Puljujarvi for Risto.
    Is that a deal you would do?
    I would do that deal in an instant as our pairings would be
    Nurse, Larsson
    Klefbom, Risto
    If they would take. Ack Sekeraand he would accept I would be ok with that.
    Sounds like Sekera isplaying well at the Worlds so hewould not be a salary dump to them but a legit Vetern that an help on the back end. If they want a right shot dman I would be ok with adding Benning
    Puljujarvi, Sekera, Benning
    Risto, add in

  • ubermiguel

    Klefbom for Ristolainen straight up. We get that RHD, and I’m still not sold on Klef’s durabiliy; Ristolainen has been a little sturdier thus far. Also, pair Ristolainen with an experienced guy who is instructed to focus on defence (e.g.: Russell) and his defensive short-comings will be minimal.

  • Sorensenator

    No chance he is available. They need him to mentor Dahlin, they have no other good D. What a waste of an article. Let’s see if we can trade Lucic for Ovechkin too.

  • TKB2677

    I would like Ristolainen, he would be exactly what the Oilers would need. I just don’t know how you fit him in salary wise unless salary is going back. They need to be getting rid of a guy like Sekera, basically swapping cap hit for cap hit. Sekera has a no move so I doubt he waves it. Even if he did, I see no reason why Buffalo would want him.

    In my opinion, trading Klefbom makes no sense to me. He’s 24 yr old signed to a good contract. I don’t think you get any better trading away 24 yd old dmen.

    • crabman

      I don’t like the idea of trading Klefbom either but unless Russell or Sekera waive their NMC someone from the left side will be moved if the team can add a top4 righty. At least with Ristolainen the team would lose a 24 year old but gain a 23 year old. Ristolainen has consistently played more minutes more games, and scored more points. Add to the fact he plays the right side and he is an upgrade to the roster.
      I doubt Klefbom gets the deal done alone but the 2 defencemen could be the major building blocks to a trade.
      But as the author mentions this might be dependent on Buffalo landing a big FA like Carlson to make their best RHD more expendable.

      • TKB2677

        I agree with you. That is why while it would be great if it happened, I don’t see it. I actually have nothing against Sekera or Russell. I think Sekera when healthy is a decent #3 all around dman who can do a little of everything. He makes 5.5 mill. I always want players to make less but given he can give you 30 pts a year, play 20+ decent mins a night, can be on a PP unit, probably better if he is on your 2nd unit, plus kills penalties, I don’t think he is overpaid. In Russell, while I am not a huge fan, I am not a hater like some people are. If he’s in your 3rd pairing you are loving it but he’s probably a #4 on a lot of teams. We can complain about his contract but if he is a top 4 guy, he’s really not that overpaid at 4 mill. The problem with both of those guys is they are left handed.

  • Moneyball

    Sure why not if the price is right. The few things I would be shopping for this summer are another right wing veteran and a power play defencemen. The only assets I would be trying to shop are the 10th pick and puljujarvi. Ristolainen would be,one of those boxes checked. If they will take puljujarvi and give back a 3rd rounder sure.

  • Anton CP

    Unless that Botterill wants to get fired or he can get a return such as Karlsson then I can’t see for any other reason for Botterill wants to move Ristolainen.

    Should the Oilers be interested in him? A puck moving right side defenseman with contract smaller than Sekera? Is this a trick question?