In a turn of events ahead of the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, Rasmus Ristolainen is off the board as trade bait. Instead, he signed a 5yr/$25.5mil extension.
There are two schools of thought about this extension. You can either justify Ristolainen as a great locker room fit, misused in his first season with the Philadelphia Flyers. Or, you might understand that he isn’t a defenseman that plays defense, but just a physical blueliner with a hard shot, and $25.5mil is a lot of money to invest in a player who fails at the fundamental aspect of his job description.
Next year will make a decade for Ristolainen in the NHL, but Chuck Fletcher just put $25.5mil on Dave Scott’s “blank check” to bet that year ten is the lucky number.
At least it is at a pay cut. In 2021-2022, Ristolainen makes $5.4mil. Could you imagine anything near or past $6mil, as mentioned a couple of weeks ago? But, at least it isn’t quite an overpay, and he’ll step to Tom Wilson regularly for the foreseeable future.
Shaping Next Season
With the extension, we know what the defensive top four will look like at the start of 2022-2023. Ivan Provorov and Ryan Ellis will assume the first pair, followed by Travis Sanheim and Ristolainen on the second. At least that much is uniform.
Extending Ristolainen has to mean that he’ll be on the powerplay, right? That’ll depend on whoever is the head coach next season, but it had to be a topic of discussion. Relieving Provorov of that duty is overdue. On one unit, there could be Ristolainen on the blueline, with Cam York or Sanheim on the other.
A sturdy, defensive defenseman on the bottom pair is a requirement. Fletcher still has an opportunity to extend Justin Braun for another season, firming the bottom with a veteran who excelled at the top.
An extension to Ristolainen at $5.1mil shows that Fletcher acknowledged the former contract as an overpayment. It’s an investment in the culture of the Philadelphia Flyers. Ristolainen is well-liked in the locker room and scouts love his game. He’s the most bipolar participant in the eye test versus analytics conversation. Many appreciate the game Ristolainen has, despite his greatly diminished defensive value.
What I do appreciate is how Ristolainen responds on the ice, standing up for teammates. He fits the image of the Flyers; a bruising hitter with a cannon shot.
When speaking of upgrading a defense, it’s where his name ought to be omitted from discussion. Some would have wanted Fletcher to use Ristolainen as a trade piece for his “aggressive retool,” and it’s a take I agree with. Nonetheless, Philadelphia does shave some cap space while eliminating the search for another RD for next season.
(Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire)