Buffalo signs defenseman Ristolainen to six-year extension


The Buffalo Sabres have signed restricted free-agent defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen to a six-year, $32.4 million contract extension.

The deal, which comes the day before the start of the National Hockey League regular season, carries a $5.4 million cap hit.

“Rasmus has already proven to be a pivotal player on our blue line, and we are eager to have him back with the team,” Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said. “This deal is a reflection of the hard work and improvement Rasmus has shown since being drafted, and we hope to see him continue on this trajectory moving forward.”

Ristolainen, drafted eighth overall in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, is coming off a strong season in which he set career highs in goals (9), assists (32), points (41) and power-play points (21). He finished fourth on the team in points and third in assists. He and Jack Eichel finished tied for second on the team in power-play points.

This is an outstanding deal for Buffalo.

Ristolainen’s game continues to improve, and the 6-4, 207-pound defenseman is a crucial part of this Sabres team. He is a top-pairing defenseman and sees time on the team’s top power-play unit. The timing of the deal is especially significant considering the Sabres open the season Thursday night against Montreal. Plus, fellow top-four defensemen Zach Bogosian and Dmitry Kulikov are battling injuries.

The 21-year-old finished in the top ten in average ice time in the NHL last year, averaging 25:16 per game. He also finished ninth among defensemen in shots on goal with 202.

The Finnish defenseman has 19 goals and 65 points in 194 career regular-season games spanning three seasons with the Sabres.

Featured Image Credit: Dan Hickling-Olean Times Herald