It comes with a cap hit of $5.4 million per season and Ristolainen will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the contract. The contract runs through the 2021-22 season. He was a restricted free agent, but he was skating with the Sabres while he didn’t have a contract. Ristolainen played for Finland in the World Cup of Hockey.
The defenseman played in all 82 games for the Sabres last season. He had nine goals, 32 assists, 41 points and averaged 25:16 of ice time per game. Ristolainen has improved in each of his first three seasons with the Sabres. He set career highs in goals (9), assists (32), points (41), shots (202) and time on ice per game (25:16). He led Buffalo defenseman in goals (9), assists (32) and points (41) and he was ranked 10th among all NHL defenseman in average time on ice per game (25:16).
Ristolainen has a little bit of a physical side to his game, and he is willing to block shots. He has great size to go with a big shot, which he isn’t afraid to use to get pucks to the net. The defenseman showed some shutdown ability last season before he started to struggle a little bit, but that could have been due to the jump in minutes that he was playing. He can skate and that helps him be able to move the puck out of his own zone. Ristolainen can log minutes and the Sabres aren’t afraid to use him to eat up minutes. He’s more of an offensive defenseman, who need to improve his defensive game.
Ristolainen has some things that he needs to work on like he play without the puck. He needs to be able to know where to go when he doesn’t have the puck instead of looking lost at times. His defensive zone coverage needs to improve in order for him to be a big time shutdown defender. Ristolainen can tend to get out of position because he is playing the puck and not the man. he also needs to keep his game simple and not overthink the little things.
The Sabres have its young defenseman locked up for the next six year. The deal was a good one for both sides since it isn’t a huge cap hit for the Sabres and it’s a long term deal for Ristolainen.