No matter what Rasmus Ristolainen may have said last week in Finland, the party line from the Buffalo Sabres is they're currently planning to have the veteran defenseman on their team for the start of training camp next month.
Speaking last week to Finnish outlet MTV Sports, Ristolainen implied it might be better for him to get traded by the Sabres rather than to stay in Buffalo for a seventh season.
"I was not surprised, not disappointed," General Manager Jason Botterill said Saturday in KeyBank Center following the team's Fan Fest that kicked off its 50th anniversary season. "Look, there’s always stories coming out when players go back, and Finland’s had an amazing year with (gold medals in the) World Juniors and World Championships.
"But you just look in the past week or two, there’s stories from other organizations and stuff too, coming out of Finland. So those are something we can’t control. What we can control is our interaction with our player, with our group here."
Like he did after development camp, Botterill said he was keeping any conversation he's had with Ristolainen private. But the GM said he's continued to interact with the team's longest-tenured blueliner.
"We’re continuing to try to set this team up where we’re putting 'Risto' in positions to have success," Botterill said. "Yeah, he wants to win. We also want to put him in a situation where he plays very well, and that’s what we’ve tried to do with some of the acquisitions, add depth to our defense, add competition to our defense."
While the Sabres are currently more than $1 million over the salary cap, they have options to use long-term injured reserve for players who don't figure to be ready to start the season like Zach Bogosian and Lawrence Pilut. They also could use it on a player like Matt Hunwick dealing with injury issues that may prevent him from playing entirely.