2021 Player Report Card: Rasmus Ristolainen

Do we really <strong>have</strong> to look back on this past season?

Total Season stats: 49 GP, 4 G, 14 A, 18 PTS

Age: 26

Contract Status: Signed through 2021-22, $5.4 million

It doesn’t seem possible, but somehow, defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen is the third-longest tenured member of the current Buffalo Sabres team. He’s been a member of the organization since being drafted in 2013, and only Zemgus Girgensons and Linus Ullmark - both drafted in 2012 - have been around longer. To put it frankly: for the good of both player and team, it’s probably best for everyone if Ristolainen is traded this summer.

I’d be remiss if I talked about Ristolainen’s season without mentioning the struggles he faced following a bout with COVID-19. In an interview with a Finnish newspaper, Ristolainen discussed symptoms including severe chest pain, low oxygen levels & exhaustion. He literally said that sometimes, things were so bad at night when he went to bed that he didn’t know if he would wake up in the morning. Before he’s a hockey player, he’s a human being — and hearing anyone going through something like that is, quite honestly, terrifying.

Despite going through all of that, he did eventually return to the ice and ended up playing 49 games over the course of the season, but it was another rough season, frustrating for all involved. It’s no surprise that Ristolainen has spoken about being open to a trade. Last month, he went on a podcast and said that he’d even be willing to be a mascot on a winning team.

If I had to choose one video to summarize Ristolainen’s season, it’d be this one:

The Sabres have put Ristolainen in a big role over the past few seasons, and it’s likely he’s been overworked for what he’s capable of. He averaged 22:17 per game this past season, but there were six games where he actually played more than 25 minutes. He’s been overutilized, and it’s honestly not benefitted either the player nor the team.

Time for both sides to move on.

Season Grade: D

How would you grade Rasmus Ristolainen’s season?