In the world of academia, technically, such a grade doesn’t exist. Usually, F signifies the worst one can do in any given exercise, and adding the additional signifier is simply irrelevant. Then again, sometimes, a graded exercise is just so gosh darn bad that the addition of a minus surfaces to signify the extreme dissatisfaction with the efforts presented and/or a total lack of comprehension.
So naturally, when a team like the Philadelphia Flyers are given an F- in a trade by our friends over at The Athletic (subscription required) in a deal where they surrender a first-round pick, a second-round pick, and a solid young defenseman, it’s going to draw the ire of fans around the Delaware Valley.
Is that warranted? Most definitely. Fans have every right to be upset about how Chuck Fletcher chose to allocate his resources, especially when you factor in the decision to trade Shayne Gostisbehere, a second, and a seventh for nothing the day before, but do you know who isn’t at fault in this particular situation? Rasmus Ristolainen, because he wasn’t asked to be traded for such hearty returns and appears rightfully excited to be out of Buffalo and on his way to a legitimate playoff contender.
The Philadelphia Flyers need to hope their evaluation of Ristolainen is right.
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Rasmus Ristolainen has been in the NHL for eight years.
The eighth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft out of Turku, Finland, Ristolainen took the ice for the Sabres on opening night of the 2013-14 season and split his season between Buffalo’s big club and their minor league affiliate, the Rochester Americans.
From there, he played for the Sabres exclusively over the next seven seasons, amassed 245 points in 542 games of action, and was awarded with a six-year, $32.4 million deal to remain with the team through the 2021-22 season.
Statistically speaking, he hasn’t quite lived up to a contract with an AAV of $1.6 million more than Shayne Gostisbehere, the player he’ll effectively be replacing this fall.
See what I mean? Not ideal.
Now granted, some of Ristolainen’s issues are not on him. The Buffs have never earned a winning record during Ristolainen’s tenure with the team, and even with a few quality players around him, the team has never been particularly ripe with top-end talent on the blue line. Still, when you actually watch Ristolainen on the ice, which Flyers fans were able to often because of their intradivision-only season, he isn’t the total on-ice disaster some would have you believe.
He’s tall, he can hit, he’s right-handed, and he can skate. All four of those attributes are worth a ton at the NHL level, even if it’s been more or less proven that height doesn’t necessarily correlate to on-ice success, as players like Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar have proven. Assuming Ristolainen takes on a lesser role with the Flyers this fall, paired up with Travis Sanheim in a second unit spot, there’s a chance his numbers could even off, and Philadelphia could end up with a solid top-four the likes of which they desperately could have used last season.
If the goal of this trade was to land a physical presence on the blue line to provide some back-end pop, this move certainly accomplishes that goal, but that isn’t where the problems lie. No, the problem is that Ristolainen and his $5.4 million extension are at best a neutral asset and could potentially be viewed as a negative one in the same vein as Gostisbehere, depending on how desperate a team is to get off of his money. To surrender a first-round pick and a second-round pick – plus everything that was given up to get off of Ghost’s money – to get the final year of Ristolainen’s contract? Well, that’s where the trade ventures into F- territory.
Make no mistake about it; the Flyers are all-in on winning now. They’ve taken on long-term money in the Ryan Ellis trade that could potentially age poorly and will surely attempt to sign Ristolainen to a similarly expensive contract in the not-too-distant future. These moves should help to improve on the underwhelming performances the squad turned in last season and could go a long way in securing a playoff spot in the now-back-to-normal Metropolitan Division.
But are they good ideas? Does trading away a draft pick that was utilized on Isak Rosen plus a future second make the team better long-term? How about moving on from Nolan Patrick, Philippe Myers, and Robert Hagg, a trio of players who won’t turn 30 until midway through the decade at bare minimum? If Ristolainen, Ellis, and company are hoisting the Stanley Cup this time next year, none of this really matters but realistically, have the Flyers really done enough to make that a reality?
When asked about the opportunity to play for the Philadelphia Flyers, Rasmus Ristolainen didn’t mince words, “I’m really excited to go to Philadelphia. I’m going to do everything I can to help the team make the playoffs and make a run. I’m willing to do anything to help the team win… I’m extremely happy it happened. I can’t wait to get to Philly and meet everyone.” Is that the sort of player you want to root against simply because he was traded from one team to another in an incredibly lopsided deal? Remember, Ristolainen didn’t ask to be traded. That’s on Chuck Fletcher and how this pans out is solely on his shoulders, for better, or likely worse. But hey, you can’t spell Fletcher without F… minus.