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It’s down to the wire for Ristolainen

Ristolainen

The excitement builds as the Sabres’ home opener nears.

Will Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart be paired together? Will Robin Lehner stay healthy and be a stud in net? Oh, and will Rasmus Ristolainen be in the lineup?

The Sabres’ lone RFA is still unsigned.

During the preseason, he practiced and skated with the team, but those days are over.

He did not report to KeyBank Center Tuesday morning. Dan Bylsma confirmed that the Finn will not be skating with the team unless he is signed.

Leverage is now solely in the hands of the young defenseman. Not having him in the lineup could cost the team some points in the standings. Last year, he anchored the Sabres’ top defensive pairing, playing in all 82 games, posting nine goals and 32 assists while logging over 25 minutes per game.

One would think a deal should get done. Murray has repeatedly stated his interest for No. 55 to be a Sabre and said he’s willing to offer either a short or long term deal. Also, Ristolainen has said several times last season he likes playing for Bylsma and defensive coach Terry Murray.

Money, of course, is the problem.

Given comparable deals by young defensemen listed below, it would appear Ristolainen would be asking for five or six years for around $5M per season.

  • Olli Maatta (Pittsburgh), six years, $24.5M, $4.08M cap hit.
  • Sami Vatanen (Anaheim), four years, $19.5M, $4.875M cap hit.
  • Morgan Rielly (Toronto), six years, $30M, $5M cap hit.
  • Torey Krug (Boston), four years, $21M, $5.25M cap hit.
  • Seth Jones (Columbus), six years, $32.4M, $5.4M cap hit.
  • Aaron Ekblad (Florida), eight years, $60M, $7.5M cap hit.
  • Victor Hedman (Tampa), eight years, $63M, $7.875M cap hit.

Two other RFA’s holding out include Anaheim’s Hampus Lindholm and Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba.

NHL rosters are due at 5 p.m. today.

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