Sabres trade Rasmus Ristolainen to Flyers, net first-round pick in return

The Rasmus Ristolainen era is over in Buffalo.

According to various reports, the Buffalo Sabres are dealing the maligned defenseman to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a package that includes NHL-ready defender Robert Hagg, the 13th-overall selection in Friday night's draft, and a second-round pick in 2023.

Ristolainen has performed at the bottom of the league in terms of high-leverage defender minutes for many years for the lowly Sabres. Almost always in a situation in which he's being caved in based on season-long data, Ristolainen has never maintained an on-ice even-strength shot share above 50 percent in his eight seasons, each spent in Buffalo. And with the exception of one campaign, where his even strength goal share was nearly even, the Sabres have been out-scored decidedly when he's been on the ice.

The evaluations are not pretty.

Philadelphia is banking on those horrible numbers being the product of his environment. Ristolainen can't control all the variables, of course, and a percentage of his inability to produce results is based on the lack of talent in Buffalo since he was drafted in the first round, eighth overall, back in 2013.

Much of Ristolainen's issues could be connected to his lack of development time. He spent only 34 games in the minor leagues, competing almost exclusively at the NHL level since being drafted as an 18-year-old.

Ristolainen had four goals and 18 points in 49 games last season, averaging a team-high 22 minutes and 17 seconds on ice.

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 08: Buffalo Sabres Defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (55) looks on during the second period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Buffalo Sabres on May 8, 2021, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
The Sabres will now have two picks in the first round after finding someone to take polarizing blueliner Rasmus Ristolainen off their hands. (Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The trade certainly makes Friday's NHL Draft more intriguing from a Sabres standpoint. They are expected to take defenseman Owen Power with the first overall selection and can now add another quality prospect to the system as they prepare for life after Jack Eichel.

Hagg projects to be not much more than a depth defenseman. He just completed his fifth season with the Flyers, registering five points in 34 games.

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