Could Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen be the rugged defenseman the Boston Bruins are looking for on the NHL trade market?
In his latest 32 Thoughts and on The Jeff Marek show, Sportsnet Insider Elliotte Friedman said that he believes Ristolainen will indeed get moved before the March 21 NHL Trade deadline.
“I think Rasmus Ristolainen gets moved. He wants a playoff series,” Friedman wrote. “Not only do I understand the desire to finally get a chance after almost 600 games, but I could see Ristolainen thinking postseason style as beneficial for his market value.”
A few calls to NHL pro scouts around the league Friday seemed to give a resounding yes to Ristolainen being what the Bruins lack so dearly on their blue line, with even saying he heard that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and his staff likely have the former and longtime Sabres blueliner on their trade target board for the upcoming NHL trade deadline because they’ve targeted him in the past, specifically right before the Flyers acquired Ristolainen from the Buffalo Sabres last July.”
“I heard from numerous folks around the league that Sweeney was in on him,” the scouts said of the Bruins’ interest in Ristolainen last summer. “I think he, like some other interested teams, just didn’t want to pay that price for him.”
As our man in Philly, Sam Carchidi pointed out recently, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher may want a similar price heading into the 2022 NHL trade deadline considering what he paid for Ristolainen, who can become an unrestricted free agent, less than a year ago.
“If the 6-foot-3, 221-pound defenseman doesn’t agree to an extension and decides he wants to test the UFA market, GM Chuck Fletcher needs to trade him and recoup some of his losses,” Carchidi pointed out. “The Philadelphia Flyers acquired the defenseman from the Buffalo Sabres last July for Robert Hagg and first- and second-round draft picks – a steep price, indeed, if Ristolainen becomes a one-year rental. Fletcher needs to get a first-round pick back to save face, but that won’t be easy.”
The 27-year-old, six-foot-four, 221-pound Ristolainen does indeed play that physical play that suits the physicality and rigors of the Stanley Cup playoffs. As evidenced in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final, when the Bruins were simply outmuscled by the St. Louis Blues – specifically in Game 7 – and every playoff series loss since then, the Bruins simply don’t have enough ‘pricks’, as head coach Bruce Cassidy pointed out last Saturday in Ottawa, on their blue line.
“We have a lot of nice guys on our team,” said Cassidy prior to the Bruins 3-2 overtime win over the Senators last Saturday night. “We need to be more like pricks.”
Cassidy went on to explain how the Bruins are hoping that 23-year-old, six-foot-two, 200-pound defenseman Urho Vaakanainen can morph into that type of pain in the derrière rearguard the Bruins so dearly need right now and come playoff time.
“I don’t know if Urho [Vaakanainen] is going to be that guy, but we’d like him to develop into a shutdown guy that can be a little harder to play against,” Cassidy said. “We’d like that whole D corps to bring a little more of that. Even though they’re not by nature, but just as a six-some every night. Like Charlie [McAvoy] when he brings it, physicality. When [Jean-Gabriel] Pageau hit [Brandon] Carlo the other night, you see Charlie, all of a sudden, the competitiveness ramps up. He didn’t get hit; his teammate did. So we need more of that from the whole group, to be honest with you.”
As reported here more than once, by my partner-in-scribe, Joe Haggerty, the Bruins have been actively been shopping Vaakanainen on more than one occasion over the last three seasons, including this one.
“They may want him to be that guy but I don’t see it,” said another NHL scout. “He doesn’t seem to have that mean streak in him.”
If the Bruins want more of that ‘mean streak’ before the NHL trade deadline and for a potential run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Rasmus Ristolainen does seem like a player they should at least revisit. Ristolainen would bring in a pro-rated $3.6 million cap hit so if the Bruins wanted to make any more moves, they may have to move a player like Connor Clifton, who has another season at $1 million left on his contract. One thing is for sure, the Bruins are looking to change their blue line and become harder to play against.