Rasmus Ristolainen was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers by the Buffalo Sabres on Friday for Robert Hagg, a first-round pick (No. 14) in the 2021 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft.
The Sabres also have the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, which will begin with the first round Friday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW, TVAS). Buffalo has 11 selections in the draft, which will continue Saturday with rounds 2-7 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).
“I’m really excited to go to Philadelphia,” Ristolainen said. “I’m going to do everything I can to help the team make the playoffs and make a run. … I’m extremely happy it happened. I cant want to get to Philly and meet everyone.”
Ristolainen scored 18 points (four goals, 14 assists) in 49 games with the Sabres this season. The defenseman has one season remaining on a six-year, $32.4 million contract ($5.4 million average annual value) he signed with Buffalo on Oct. 11, 2016.
“We are extremely happy to add Rasmus to our blue line,” Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “He is a 26-year-old, right-shot defenseman who will immediately add grit to our team. His size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds), mobility and physicality will make him an important piece to our group going forward.”
Ristolainen can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. Fletcher said it’s too soon to tell if the Flyers will sign him before then.
“The [NHL salary] cap is tough right now,” Fletcher said. “It’s a flat cap world so I don’t know what the timing would be, but certainly we look at Ristolainen as being a guy that should have a very good chance of being part of our future going forward. That’s something we’ll look at in due course. Depending too on the cap and where we’re at, we’ll look to do things when the timing’s right.”
Selected by Buffalo with the No. 8 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, Ristolainen has scored 245 points (46 goals, 199 assists) in 542 NHL games, including 111 points (14 goals, 97 assists) on the power play.
The Sabres (15-34-7) finished last in the NHL this season. They did not qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs during Ristolainen’s eight seasons with them.
“Obviously we had really tough years in Buffalo,” Ristolainen said. “I played a big part, I was one of the leaders there. We couldn’t make the playoffs, and that’s not good. And obviously when that’s the case, you’ve got to make some moves and players get traded.”
Hagg, a defenseman, scored five points (two goals, three assists) in 34 games with the Flyers this season. The 26-year-old has one season remaining on a two-year, $3.2 million contract ($1.6 million average annual value) he signed with Philadelphia on Sept. 28, 2020.
Selected by Philadelphia in the second round (No. 41) of the 2013 draft, Hagg has scored 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists) in 236 regular-season games and has three assists in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
The Flyers (25-23-8) were sixth in the eight-team MassMutual East Division this season and did not make the playoffs. Philadelphia traded defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and two picks in the 2022 NHL Draft to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday for future considerations, and it acquired defenseman Ryan Ellis in a trade with the Nashville Predators on July 17 for defenseman Philippe Myers and center Nolan Patrick.
“We believe that we have a really good mix of defensemen now, we have a good veteran team, and I think we have some pretty good stability right now on our back end,” Fletcher said. “I think anytime players are slotted in the right role with the right mix of players around them they have a much better chance to improve and work better. We’re obviously banking on that. And we like the skill set that [Ristolainen] brings. There’s still an important role for size and physicality in this game and he’s a guy that’s been able to put some points, he can skate, he can move the puck.”
NHL.com deputy managing editor Adam Kimelman contributed to this report