Whether you like the guy or not, Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, a pending free agent, will be one of the best trade deadline chips the Flyers hold. Teams across the league will be making offers for the 27-year-old, and if a teardown and rebuild is in their future, it’ll be a crucial starting point in the Flyers’ journey to gain assets and draft capital. So who would be his most likely suitors if his name ends up on the trade block in the near future?
Number 5: Edmonton Oilers
The deficiencies on the Oilers backend are well documented both in net and on the blueline. A team that is as desperate for post season success as the Oilers are, they may be open to adding anybody they perceive as an upgrade, and Ristolainen would fit the bill. The cap will be difficult to maneuver considering the Oilers don’t have any to speak of, but are expected to have just shy of $1 million in deadline space, so that can be worked around. Watching a certain section of Edmonton fans meltdown at adding Duncan Keith and Ristolainen in the same season would be well worth the trade. Apparently the team isn’t willing to trade their first round pick or top prospects, so they might get priced out of a Ristolainen bidding war.
Number 4: Carolina Hurricanes
A team with little cap space and are fairly deep on defense, the Hurricanes have emerged as possible suitors for fellow right-handed defenseman John Klingberg. If that deal, for whatever reason, doesn’t come to fruition and the Canes are still in the market for a righty, Risto would be the next best available option. They’re a team that seems ready to go all in and have been rumored to be considering all their options when it comes to the trade deadline, so if the Flyers are serious sellers, the Hurricanes may be interested buyers.
Number 3: Minnesota Wild
The Wild are without their captain and top RHD Jared Spurgeon for the long-term after reaggravating an injury in December. Even if he’s back in time for the playoffs themselves, the Wild are going to need all hands on deck to secure a spot in the first place. When everyone is healthy, the have a fairly deep defense corps, especially on the right side, so it’d make sense for them to be in on Ristolainen, who seemingly flourishes in limited minutes.
Number 2: Winnipeg Jets
There have been few teams that have been decimated by involuntary losses on the blueline as the Jets have over the last few seasons. They were supposedly one of the potential suitors for Ristolainen last summer in the sweepstakes that the Flyers ultimately won, so it stands to reason that if he once again becomes available, Winnipeg may still be interested. They’re fighting hard for a playoff spot and if they can get back inside the top eight before the trade deadline, they may feel inspired to re-enter the Risto pool and finally bring him to Winnipeg.
Number 1: Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs may not have a ton of cap space, just a hair over $300,000 in deadline space according to Capfriendly to be exact, but, much like the Oilers, they’re a team that will be desperate to add as much talent to their roster as they can in preparation for the playoffs. They’re a little thin in the prospect pool, but still have most of their draft picks, including their first and second rounders, for the next few seasons. If they’re desperate for defensive help and sniff around Ristolainen, it’ll be in the Flyers’ best interest to hear them out.
In the irony of all ironies, the Predators traded their top right handed defenseman in Ryan Ellis to the Flyers during the offseason, now they ended up atop the Central Division standings with a team that will seemingly make the playoffs, ready or not. They’ve been stuck in no man’s land between rebuilding and salvaging their last shot at a Stanley Cup for a few years, so if they feel like this could be their chance to bring home Lord Stanley, adding a right-handed defenseman will be on their priority list.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: bleacherreport.com