Flyers’ general manager Chuck Fletcher continued his trading streak Friday as he redesigns his team’s roster ahead of a big 2021-22 season.
Fletcher acquired defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen from the Buffalo Sabres. The price to do so was not cheap. The Flyers sent the Sabres the 13th overall pick in Friday night’s NHL draft, Robert Hagg, and a 2023 second-round pick.
And the draft and free agency are still ahead. This sure is a busy July.
Ristolainen, 26, is a 6-foot-4, bruising defenseman who has played just under 24 minutes per game in his career. He was the eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft. He will help make the Flyers tougher to play against, which has been an importance of the club, particularly after it allowed an NHL-most 3.52 goals per game in 2020-21.
The Flyers’ 2021 first-round pick was a spot “of high-asset value,” Fletcher said this month. If he was to move the pick, Fletcher said he wanted a player in return who could help during the short and long term.
Ristolainen is entering the final year of his six-year, $32.4 million deal ($5.4 million cap hit), according to CapFriendly.com and PuckPedia.com. The Flyers will have to hope they can re-sign him to an extension at some point during the season or next offseason.
Here’s an early look at the Flyers’ potential 2021-22 defensive pairs:
Ivan Provorov-Ryan Ellis
Travis Sanheim-Rasmus Ristolainen
Cam York-Justin Braun
Braun had to be a top-pair guy a lot last season because of the Flyers’ instability and lack of experience. The Flyers are a lot deeper now at a important area. But there’s no denying it was costly.
Hagg, 26, was a second-round pick of the Flyers in 2013. He was a solid, stay-at-home depth piece for the Flyers but was a sixth or seventh defenseman in the club’s blue-line picture over the past couple of seasons.
The Swedish native worked his way into the 2019-20 lineup and became a regular down the stretch with one of his best seasons as a pro. But in 2020-21, Hagg was in and out of the lineup, playing 34 of the Flyers’ 56 games. He dealt with a shoulder injury in the second half of March and early April and had a couple of pulled muscles in his groin area during the beginning of the season.
The Flyers currently have six picks in this weekend’s draft, which will all come on Saturday when rounds two-seven are held. The club has a pick in each round on day two.
Free agency opens next Wednesday.