Over the years many have called for the Toronto Maple Leafs to look into acquiring the 25-year-old 6’4″ Right-Shot Defensemen, Rasmus Ristolainen.
The Toronto Maple Leafs should not be interested in Ristolainen. The idea of trading for him is only a good one if you look at his point totals, his height, and his TOI. But any sort of analytic evidence we have goes to show he is not a valuable NHL player.
Recently, there was a reported rumor from Eklund at Hockeybuzz.com that stated the Leafs would be interested in trading Alexander Kerfoot and Andreas Johnsson for Ristolainen.
This is not something the Toronto Maple Leafs should do.
Toronto Maple Leafs Trade Rumorus
This is a fun rumour, but based on what we know about the Leafs and their dedication to analytics, it doesn’t sound plausible.
Based on the evidence throughout the Kyle Dubas era, it is highly unlikely Dubas would be willing to acquire such an overrated player who brings minimal positives on the ice.
As Dubas’ drafting, signing, and trading have shown, he is a general manager who prioritizes skill and talent above all other avenues.
Dubas simply does not care about the height of a player if the player is not a quality player.
One of Dubas’ first moves a general manager was trading away Matt Martin who was replaced by more skilled and impactful players. Most of the players drafted have been under 6’0″, including defensemen, take Sandin as a prime example.
After going and trading away one of the most treasured players of the last decade in Leafs nation, Nazem Kadri for Kerfoot, I highly doubt Dubas would trade Kerfoot for a player who has been in the league for seven seasons and has failed to be a positive player for the entirety of his NHL career.
According to Evolving Wilds’s skater similarity model which simulates which players have the most similar numbers with each other, Ristolainen is closest in skill to the likes of common trainwrecks, Jack Johnson and Luke Schenn. This really goes to show that Ristolainen is not the dream right-handed defensemen like many may say, his height and TOI don’t define him to be a good player.
I can guarantee you if you watch Ristolainen you will notice his poor decision making and poor gap control in transition. Here are some numbers that should speak for themself;
Data from @JFreshHockey
In every aspect, offensive, defensive, powerplay or penalty kill, Ristolainen is in the 22% or lower in terms of all NHL defensemen. The 22nd% is hardly even a top-6 level NHL defenseman.
As you can see in the chart above, he has a consistent negative impact on games.
The issue with Ristolainen is that there is no palatable argument for him to have these bad numbers. He has had these low-quality numbers for his entire NHL career so it can’t be a sample issue, the idea he is on a bad team and that is the reason his numbers are bad is false because his numbers are among the worst out of the entire team, and the numbers adjust for quality of teammates, quality of competition, zone starts among plenty of other important factors.
Ristolainen’s adjusted plus-minus is the worst on the entire Buffalo defense corps over the past 3 seasons, it is worse than even Matt Hunwick. If Hunwick was not able to be a solid partner for Rielly, then how would Ristolianen if he might be worse.
On top of not being a quality player, Ristolainen comes with a heavy cap hit of $5.4 Million, something that the Leafs likely can’t afford given their current cap scenario. This adds to the fact that the rumor can’t possibly be true.
Even if the Leafs were to give away Kerfoot for Ristolainen they would be forced to fill another spot in the lineup which would come at a cost to the cap, making the cap situation even more difficult.
To conclude, it is without a doubt that trading for Ristolainen would be a bad idea and I am quite confident that the organization is smarter than the Sabers organization so I doubt they would do such a thing.