The topic of rentals and possible players being traded out of town before the trade deadline will continue to be a topic of conversation as long as the Philadelphia Flyers don’t improve their record drastically and get back in the playoff race. That being said, the team went out and paid well for a defenceman to fill a spot on their second pairing, Rasmus Ristolainen. They gave up defenceman Robert Hagg, a first-round pick in 2021 which turned into Isak Rosen, and a 2023 second-round pick.
If the Flyers don’t find themselves in the playoff hunt by the time the deadline is here, an impactful rental in Ristolainen should be a player teams will be calling about. If so, the team will be wise to move him and try and replenish the assets they spent to acquire him if there’s no plan in place to re-sign him.
Depth defencemen, so third pairing and seventh defencemen, are always the most likely candidates to move around at the deadline. This is due to teams wanting to bring in reinforcements in the off chance players go down to injury, without having to spend more than a mid-round draft pick to do so.
Top-level defencemen like Ristolainen could be highly sought after if the price is right for a team lacking on the back-end. His physical play and size are well suited for a playoff push and should translate well to the elevated play in the postseason despite not making an appearance in his career so far. As of right now, John Klingberg is the other premium defenceman that looks to be available, but teams know they bring completely different things to the table. We will take a better look at some teams that may be calling the Flyers about Ristolainen in the coming months.
It’s nothing new that the Boston Bruins will be looking to upgrade their defence before the trade deadline, as they are set to battle it out and make the playoffs once again. They have two strong options on the right side in Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo but could upgrade on the third pairing over Connor Clifton. This could allow for a solid backup plan and push Clifton over to the other side or even serve as a seventh defenceman for the rest of the season.
Another option is that Ristolainen could move to the other side, as their left defence really needs an upgrade. He would be able to bring tough and physical shifts on a playoff-bound team. In 33 games in Philadelphia, he’s already made 106 hits. He would serve as nothing more than a rental for the Bruins, and even though he may not be having the best season, he is a piece that would be able to get the Flyers one of the best returns this season. Having said that, the Bruins may not have to pay full price but will have to move cap space out, most likely at forward, if they are going to make any additions before the trade deadline.
Los Angeles Kings
The Los Angeles Kings have fought their way back into a playoff spot with teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, and Anaheim Ducks faltering. They have a strong team backed by a resurging Jonathan Quick. They took a hit earlier in the season and lost Sean Walker, their second-pair right defenceman, for the season.
This created a while that Matt Roy has stepped in and filled. But now they have been forced to dip into the system and have seen Sean Durzi get into 19 games of action. At only 23 years old, he has played very well, but these are also the dog days in the NHL before the real grind picks up later in the season.
A defenceman on the left side, Alex Edler, has also dealt with injuries this season, so extra reinforcements to combat injuries and bring in a tough player could help them keep pace as some of the Pacific Division teams catch up in games and snap out of their slumps. Ristolainen can be an option on the second pairing with Olli Maatta or Edler when he comes back and creates a tough line to play against. With the core of Quick, Drew Doughty, and Anze Kopitar getting older, this may be one of the last kicks at the can for these franchise players, and adding a defenceman, particularly Ristolainen, can help them along with that.
New York Rangers
Cap space will not be an issue for the New York Rangers this season, and this team will be looking to add big before the contracts of Adam Fox and Mika Zibanejad kick in and they have to sign Kaapo Kakko. They will be looking to make the biggest splash for a rental, seeing as they will have significantly less money to spend next season and they are in a position to compete for the Stanley Cup this year.
Though they will also be looking to add a forward, defence is their most glaring need. This will most likely come in the form of a veteran defenceman since they have talented young players already filling their roster. To bolster their back-end, a player that plays like Ristolainen can be a welcomed addition for the Rangers who already have Jacob Trouba dishing out hits and playing hard. To have that presence on another line can really leave the offence with no answers, especially with a number of teams without some real physicality in their lineup to counter that.
The hope is that it doesn’t get to this point and the Flyers can turn their season around quickly, but we also have to be realistic and know that the general manager is going to do what he can to salvage the move that brought in Ristolainen.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with the NHL Stat Corner and trade talks from around the NHL.
You can find more of his work here.