For better or worse, Rasmus Ristolainen is staying in Philadephia for five more seasons at $25.5 million. Naturally, fans lost their damn minds upon the news breaking, but set your personal feeling about him aside, and seriously consider the positives and negatives re-signing Ristolainen brings.
Signing on the cheap
The rumors leading up to the signing were expansive anywhere from $4.5 million to over $6.5 million. Final number landed at 5 years at a $5.1 million cap hit. Not only is that a pay cut from his current deal, he was one of the few top options on the free agent market for right-handed defenseman. He and John Klingberg highlighted a very shallow RHD free agent class. There’s a good chance he could’ve made millions more on the open market, or worse, the Flyers could’ve spent millions more for a similar player.
Fills a major hole on D
The right side of the defense is in shambles thanks to Ryan Ellis’ season-long injury and the potential departure of Justin Braun at the trade deadline. If Risto got traded too, that means the Flyers would’ve had to spend the summer finding two RHD rather than just one. Jeff Petry seems like the big fish right now in the trade market, so not exactly a wealth of other options out there to fill an otherwise massive hole.
Is he a worthwhile player?
There are some valid concerns to his game. His defense and IQ are both worthwhile questions to be asked, but it’s not like he’s the unquestioned top guy in Philly. In a perfect season, he’s a number four behind Provorov, Ellis and Sanheim. If those three perform up to the level expected of them, there’s more than enough talent to cover for any mistakes Risolainen makes.
There’s always the argument that the Flyers could’ve aimed a little high in their pursuit of a top-four RHD, and that may be true, it just comes down to how much money and/or assets they were willing to commit to finding someone that qualifies as a substantial upgrade. Given all the upgrades the team needs elsewhere in the lineup, it seems unlikely the second pair of their defense is where the assets would be dedicated to.
At the end of the day, $5.1 million for a top four right-handed defenseman is a solid value contract. The righ-handed defense market was obscenely bad this year that there were practically no real upgrades over Ristolainen anyway. They could still prowl the trade market for an insurance policy in case Ryan Ellis goes M.I.A. again, but for the contract of Ristolainen and the contract alone, 5x$5 is right as expected.
Reality is, the Flyers weren’t going to give up a king’s ransom for Ristolainen last summer and let him walk this year. He was clearly the intended target all along.
This is the first of many moves during what is sure to be a busy offseason. If you’re not a fan of this particular signing, more power to you, but it’s best to reserve judgement for the final product before the fingers start getting pointed. In the meantime, just sit back, relax and enjoy the chaos.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: buffalonews.com