Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen reached the final few days before the start of the 2016-17 NHL season as one of the league’s few remaining unsigned restricted free agents.
That changed on Tuesday, though, when he and the Sabres finally came to terms on a six year extension.
Pierre LeBrun of ESPN reported on Tuesday that Ristolainen, who just finished skating with Team Finland at the World Cup of Hockey, signed a six year deal that will pay him $5.4 million per season until the deal expires. Once this happens, the blue liner – who is currently just weeks shy of his 22nd birthday – will become an unrestricted free agent.
Drafted eighth overall by the Sabres at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Ristolainen has been skating with the Atlantic Division club since his post-draft season, when he came over from Finland’s TPS Turku and split the year between Buffalo and the AHL’s Rochester Americans.
Since going pro in North America, the 6 foot 4 defenseman has put up 19 goals and 65 points in 194 career NHL games. He seems to be Buffalo’s top candidate to be the team’s top-pairings defenseman in the future; as a result, the deal he just inked could end up being a steal; it’s similar to that signed by Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson at the end of his own entry-level deal, which is now one of the league’s best value contracts.
Buffalo will begin their 2016-17 season on Thursday, October 13th, when they host the Montreal Canadiens.