The World Cup of Hockey is over. We’re halfway through the preseason. So, where is Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres No. 1 defenseman?
Still without a contract.
Rasmus joined the team recently in training camp, asking permission to practice with them though he has not signed a deal. It’s a plus on many levels, as he can stay in game-ready shape and be versed on team tactics.
Both sides are talking. In an interview with general manager Tim Murray on WGR on Friday, you could sense the struggle. Murray thinks highly of Ristolainen and said the team is willing to offer a short-term deal, a bridge deal or a long-term deal, but it will not budge on dollars.
“You try to accommodate your player up to a certain point. You try to accommodate players, you try to be fair, and you hope that after he signs the deal he’s happy,” said Murray.
He added, “As long as the talks are ongoing, something good could happen. If the talks ever break down and one side gets pissed off or doesn’t think they’re being treated fairly or negotiations aren’t going in the right direction that you have to worry. We’re certainly not at that place yet nor do I expect to be. We’ve been talking for a long time, and they have an argument and we have an argument. I don’t have a timeline, but really in fairness, there hasn’t been a deadline yet. There are looming deadlines now, so we’ll see where that takes us.”
Mike Liut, Ristolainen’s agent, said they’re not close in their negotiations.
“I certainly want to be fair, but I want to be fair within our structure and what’s good for the organization. It’s not like we’re trying to low-ball this kid or anything like that by any means, but we’ll see where it goes. I have faith that it will eventually get done.” – Tim Murray
As of now, the Sabres have the leverage. Either Ristolainen signs a deal or he sits out.
As time goes by, leverage will continue shifting to the 21-year old, Ristolainen. Sabres prospects and players signed for depth have yet to impress anyone, and they certainly haven’t shown they’re capable of playing in a regular role in a top pairing. Add to that Zach Bogosian tweaking his groin and Dmitry Kulikov suffering a back injury and the Sabres are in trouble on the blue line. There’s no denying that having Ristolainen in the lineup will make the team better and support the goal of improving another dozen or so points to make the postseason.
The season opener is less than two weeks away. Let’s hope we see No. 55 in the lineup by then.