Finding a Match for Rasmus Ristolainen: Tampa Bay Lightning

The NHL Trade Deadline is on Monday and one notable Sabre defensemen — Rasmus Ristolainen — could potentially be moved, as conveyed below by Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest…

Photo: NHL.com

Ristolainen is a very good offensive d-man, having recorded 5 goals and 32 assists in 61 games; he’s also an extremely valuable asset on the power play (13 PPP). His Corsi for [Corsi for (shots + blocks + misses) per Hockey-Reference] at even strength — 1072 — ranks 2nd on the Sabres (Rasmus Dahlin is ahead of him). His actual defending skills are another story…

Corsi against at even strength: 1179 (worst on the team)

Corsi for % at even strength [CF / (CF + CA)]: 47.6 (ranks 7th among Sabres defensemen who have played at least 20 games)

That means that the opposing team had more possession (than the Sabres) when Ristolainen was on the ice.

Here’s where he would stand among Tampa Bay defensemen (who have played at least 20 games) in the categories above…

  • Points: 37 (tied for 1st)
  • CF at even strength: 1072 (1st)
  • CF against at even strength: 1179 (8th / last)
  • CF% at even strength: (8th)

Overall, Ristolainen is still an excellent player because of how talented he is offensively, which overcompensates (make up) for his lack of defensive prowess.

Additionally, Ristolainen is under contract through the 2021-22 season (3 more years after this season). His cap hit is $5.4 million — reasonable pay for a player of Ristolainen’s caliber — and he’s only 24 years old.

Here’s what the Lightning could conceivably offer the Sabres in return for Rasmus Ristolainen…

Tampa Bay Lightning trade RW Mathieu Joseph, C Anthony Cirelli, and D Callan Foote to the Buffalo Sabres for D Rasmus Ristolainen

The Sabres defense has conceded an average of 3.07 goals a game, which ranks as the 15th best in the NHL. Their offense is more of an issue, scoring only 2.82 goals per game (tied with the Rangers for 22nd). Joseph and Cirelli would both be a big boost to the Sabres offense.

22 year old Mathieu Joseph has 13 goals and 7 assists in 52 games this year with the Lightning. He’s expandable, as the Lightning are deep at the RW position (J.T. Miller, Nikita Kucherov, and Yanni Gourde).

Cirelli has also had a productive season in his first year in the NHL, especially when you consider he’s only 21 years old. In 62 games, he has 11 goals and 13 assists (as well as a +16 rating).

Callan Foote, a 2017 1st round pick, is a highly regarded prospect who has put up solid numbers in his first full season at the AHL level…

  • Points: 20
    • Goals: 7
    • Assists: 13
  • Games played: 53

This was coming off of a sensational season in the WHL, in which Foote remarkably scored 19 goals and recorded 51 assists in just 60 games.

Foote will play full-time pro for Syracuse this season after having his best numbers with Kelowna last season. The 19-year-old scored on his first shot on his first shift in his AHL debut last season.The son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote, Callan has exceptional awareness on the ice and an understanding of how to use his size (6-4, 212) on defense.

Corey Long of NHL.com (in the beginning of the season)

The Lightning could bump Sergachev to the second line (with McDonagh) and slide Cernak to the 3rd pair to play with Ristolainen. Cernak has the lowest (best) CF against at regular strength among Tampa defensemen, and he would stay at home, thus enabling Ristolainen to join the rush.

Thanks for reading.

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