Flyers keeping Ristolainen in Philly, signing him to 5-year extension


Rasmus Ristolainen is staying in Philadelphia.

The Flyers on Thursday signed the bruising Finnish defenseman to a five-year, $25.5 million extension.

They acquired Ristolainen last summer in a trade with the Sabres. He's on the final year of a six-year, $32.4 million contract ($5.4 million cap hit).

His new deal has a $5.1 million cap hit.

"Well, when we traded for him — look, clearly I paid a big price, I recognize that," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in late January. "It's difficult to get physical defensemen, never mind physical, right-shot defensemen. There were other teams that were offering similar type of packages to ours and we had the highest pick, so we got him."

The Flyers sent Buffalo the 13th overall pick (technically 14th) in the 2021 draft, Robert Hagg and a 2023 second-round selection.

Ristolainen's extension comes just over 10 days before the March 21 trade deadline. With his expiring contract, his name had been bandied about as a trade possibility.

"I've been in the rumors for the last three, four years, so you kind of get used to it," Ristolainen said last month. "Those are things you can't control, so I haven't thought about it for a minute."

Similar to when he was acquired, Ristolainen's new deal will bring some debate. From early on in his NHL career, he played big minutes on a Sabres club that didn't make the playoffs during his eight seasons. In his tenure, Ristolainen’s on-ice goal differential at even strength was minus-151.


Those Buffalo teams endured constant instability and turnover.

This season, the Flyers envisioned Ristolainen slotting into a deeper defensive group in which there wouldn't be as much responsibility on his plate compared to his days with the Sabres. With a healthy Ryan Ellis, he could be a No. 4 on the Flyers' blue line. Without a healthy Ryan Ellis, the Flyers' entire defense has felt a trickle-down effect.

More: Ristolainen deal is a fine one, but Flyers need to hold up their end

The 27-year-old Ristolainen gives the Flyers what many teams covet. Hockey folks value Ristolainen's brand of defense. The 6-foot-4, 218-pounder plays with an imposing style of physicality and nastiness.

"I would say I'm a player that the other team hates to play against and I try to be a pain in the ass," Ristolainen said last July when the Flyers traded for him.

His Flyers teammates have grown to love him after dreading to play against him.

"When Risto's playing that physical game, he's in guys' faces and things like that, it's really tough for an opposing team to play against," Joel Farabee said in late December. "I know when he was in Buffalo, I hated playing against him. When he's playing well, it's really tough to play against."

In his first season with the Flyers, Ristolainen has two goals, 11 assists and a minus-11 rating through 49 games. The 18-28-10 Flyers have a minus-52 goal differential as a team.

He's first on the Flyers in hits (177), third in minutes per game (21:22) and blocked shots (90) and tied for sixth in penalties drawn (11).

When Ristolainen is at his best, he's killing plays, irritating the opposition and making it think twice about going to the net.

"I love Risto and what he brings to the lineup," Flyers interim head coach Mike Yeo said last month. "And what I love about him is I know that other teams hate to play against him. I know that our team hated to play against him, I know that other teams hate to play against him.

"I think he's playing really good hockey for us. He's a warrior, he shows up to play night after night and, to me, that is what I think of the Flyers being and what I want the Flyers to be and I think what we all expect the Flyers to be. For me, I know that he loves being here and we love having him."

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