Sabres Put Their Money on Ristolainen

The wait is over.

The Buffalo Sabres announced today that the team has agreed to terms with restricted free agent Rasmus Ristolainen on a six-year contract extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $5.4 million. The total dollar value of the contract is $32.4 million.

“Rasmus has already proven to be a pivotal player on our blue line and we are eager to have him back with the team,” Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said. “This deal is a reflection of the hard work and improvement Rasmus has shown since being drafted and we hope to see him continue on this trajectory moving forward.”


The deal ends months of negotiations between the standout Finnish defenseman, his agent Mike Liut, and Sabres General Manager Tim Murray.

(Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Rasmus Ristolainen has 19 goals and 46 assists in 194-career games for the Sabres. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The towering 6-4, 207-pound Ristolainen took a big leap forward in his third season in the National Hockey League with nine goals and 41 points in 2015-16. Averaging an astounding 25:16 minutes-per-game, which placed him 10th overall among all skaters last season, Ristolainen absorbed a tremendous amount of ice time for a struggling but improving Sabres team.

Ristolainen, who established new career-highs across the board, led all Sabres defensemen in games played (82), goals (9), assists (32) and points (41) last season. His value to the team on the back-end was vital and now he should be wearing blue and gold for at least the next six years.

One of two first-round picks of the Sabres along with Nikita Zadorov at the 2013 NHL Draft in New Jersey, the Turku, Finland native has carved himself a niche on the Buffalo blue line with 19 goals and 46 assists for 65 points in 194 career games. He is a career minus-68 but has shown improvement every step of the way.

Related: Rasmus Ristolainen at Sabres Camp with No Contract

Zadorov, meanwhile, was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche in a package that included Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and the Sabres 31st pick in the draft (Jeremy Roy) in exchange for Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn on June 26, 2015. O’Reilly has quickly become a centerpiece for the new Sabres regime while Zadorov has been up and down between the Avalanche and its AHL affiliate San Antonio Rampage.

By the Numbers

Ristolainen’s deal mirrors that of the Nashville Predators Seth Jones who inked an identical, six-year, $32.4 million, $5.4 million cap hit, before being traded to Columbus.

In relation to several other high profile defensemen, the contract is favorable to both sides. Ristolainen’s deal comes under the Lightning’ 8-year, $7.875 million cap hit with Victor Hedman and the Panthers’ 8-year, $7.5 million cap hit with Aaron Ekblad but above recent deals struck by Boston’s Torey Krug (4-years, $5.25 million cap hit) and Toronto’s Morgan Rielly (6-years, $5 million cap hit).


Ristolainen had reportedly been seeking an annual contract in the $6-6.5 million dollar range. Fortunately for the Sabres and its fans, a compromise was reached and he is expected to be in the lineup on Thursday for the team’s home-opener against the Montreal Canadiens.