Rasmus Ristolainen – Philadelphia Flyers
Weight: 220 lbs
Blocked Shots: 62
Average Ice-Time: 21:05
Games Played: 37
Contract: $5.4 Million (UFA next season)
Acquiring Rasmus Ristolainen would be a game-changer for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s a 6’4 giant flowing with physicality. His 128 hits so far this season are third most among NHL defensemen and eighth in the entire NHL. His 62 blocked shots would lead the Leafs and his 14 giveaways are less than any Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman.
His 21:05 minutes of average ice-time is significantly less than Morgan Rielly‘s team leading 24:14, but Ristolainen is pretty close to Jake Muzzin’s 21:22 which is second most on the team.
With two goals and 10 points so far this season, Ristolainen is comparable to Muzzin and Brodie who each have 11 points. Rasmus Ristolainen possesses a powerful shot from the point.
Having a huge physically player like Rasmus Ristolainen on the ice who’s always looking for a hit will also make the Toronto Maple Leafs much harder to play against. That type of player gets into the opponent’s head, and they’ll always have to be aware of when he’s on the ice.
Ristolainen is a very strong skater as well and his 1.08 giveaways per 60 minutes is exceptionally fewer than any defender on the Toronto Maple Leafs. After toiling in Buffalo for eight seasons before joining the flailing Flyers this season, it would be amazing to see what he could do on a contender.
The knock on Rasmus Ristolainen is that he has zero games of NHL Playoff experience, as well as absolutely brutal advanced metrics. He does have 579 games of regular season NHL experience though since coming into the league as a 19 year old after being drafted eighth overall be the Buffalo Sabres in 2012. I think this guy is dying for an opportunity to show what he can do in the playoffs, especially in a contract year.
At $5.4 million, the Toronto Maple Leafs may need to pull off some cap gymnastics to accommodate his cap hit. It may also be tricky to attempt to resign him, but without huge offensive numbers, I could see him signing his next contract for a bit less.
There are lots of other rumours out their about the Toronto Maple Leafs looking at acquiring John Klingberg, Josh Mason, P.K. Subban, Ben Chiarot or Mark Giordano, and those players may also help the Leafs, but I don’t think they’re what the team needs the most. Ristolainen, Braun and Lyubushkin are three big defensemen that fit the Leafs needs perfectly.