The Skinny On Rasmus Ristolainen
As Tom Fitzgerald and the New Jersey Devils brass look to improve the Devils defense. The Devils already have P.K. Subban and Damon Severson on their right side. The New Jersey Devils seem to find some potential in the physical hitting Finnish defenseman who can also shoot an average of 5.5% and log over 22 minutes of ice time.
Ristolainen is a 6’4 220lb right-handed shot the New Jersey Devils could utilize on their top pair lines. Yes, he’s not an analytics darling like a Shayne Gostisbehere but a change of scenery out of Buffalo could do him right under a guy like coach Lindy Ruff. Rasmus Ristolainen is a very seasoned defenseman with over 542 games played.
The Change of Scenery
Rasmus Ristolainen has been stuck under the Buffalo Sabres culture with a lack of success in the playoffs. The Devils have been to the playoffs in 2012 and 2018, and Tom Fitzgerald has been very proactive as a general manager to try and get that right defense to be well rounded. Ristolainen’s underlying numbers would likely bring a mid-round pick and a sweetener in a trade.
The New Jersey Devils are growing as a young and upcoming seasoned core team. The Devils moving a few assets near term can help balance out the pipeline before training camp and getting a big guy that can create offense and learn to become a better overall defensive player. His take away to give away ratio has improved to 12-11 over last year’s 17-24 take away to giveaway ratio. If Ristolainen is playing on a line with Ty Smith or Kevin Bahl I can see the takeaways increase to the point Ristolainen creates offensive scoring drives for New Jersey.
Ristolainen’s Contract To New Jersey
The New Jersey Devils have the potential to hanging onto Rasmus Ristolainen’s contract via the 2022 NHL offseason. I can’t see Ristolaienen going too far north over $5.4 million because his time in Buffalo has been very underwhelming with no real chances for success under the Sabres management.
The New Jersey Devils have $10,583,886 in salary cap space for the upcoming 2021-2022 season and with the Seattle Kraken coming into play the New Jersey Devils will have to lose a player and make way for other players coming in and going out.
Is Ristolainen Really Worth It
It all depends on the market value price on Rasmus Ristolainen. I don’t see the New Jersey Devils spending a few early picks because I find the P.K. Subban cost was a bit costly with draft picks in the early round. However, Rasmus Ristolainen is a 26-year-old right-handed defender versus Subban who is now 32 years of age.
If all goes well I do find that in the end that Ristolainen could be the guy that balances out the right-handed defense side, and makes life a lot more miserable for opponents. With players like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, and Mika Zibanejad still around in the Metropolitan Mass Mutual Division, I happen to like the idea of a big body physical defenseman to do both offense and defense to help propel his new team to an improvement towards a middle of the road team. But Ristolainen would not be my only acquisition.
Shayne Gostisbehere Option
The New Jersey Devils alone can’t just rely on Rasmus Ristolainen to be their only hope after a deal is done. Shayne Gostisbehere who I mentioned is a hockey analytics darling has a contract through the end of 2023. I would like to see Tom Fitzgerald who was linked to Gostisbehere and I find that Fitzgerald should take a closer look so he reduces the dependency on Ristolainen. However, I find the Devils will end up making internal roster moves during training camp if Gostisbehere is not acquired.
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