Chuck Fletcher just can’t stop spending money.
The Philadelphia Flyers took one of their most notable trade chips off the board on Thursday morning, agreeing to terms with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen on a five-year contract extension worth an average annual value of $5.1 million.
The deal, which ties Ristolainen to Philadelphia through the 2026-27 season, actually serves as a slight pay cut on the $5.4 million figure the defender is pulling in on his current deal.
The inner details of the extension such as its salary structure and inclusion of any trade protection have yet to be revealed.
There are two potential explanations behind why this contract was signed – the first being that Fletcher wanted to save face by committing long-term to an asset he paid a 2021 first-round pick, a 2023 second-round pick, and young defender Robert Hagg to acquire just eight months ago, with the second being that he earnestly believes Ristolainen is worth the money he’s set to earn.
Neither option is very encouraging.
Ristolainen was one of the worst analytical defensemen in the entire NHL when he was traded to the Flyers this past summer, and he’s remained that way in the months since.
The 26-year-old continually ranks in the league’s bottom percentiles in both even-strength offense and defense, with Ristolainen’s coaches continually throwing him out against elite competition to downright disastrous results.
While his underlying numbers have consistently been dreadful throughout the years, the one thing Ristolainen has always had to fall back on is surface-level offensive production, with the former Sabre racking up four 40-point seasons in his previous eight campaigns prior to this one. In 2021-22, though, Ristolainen doesn’t even have the box score to fall back on, with his paltry two goals and 13 points in 49 games thus far putting him on pace for his lowest output since his sophomore season.
Nevertheless, Flyers management has now made Ristolainen the first major domino to fall in the “aggressive re-tool” they are putting in motion to return the team back to contention in record time.
It’s hard to see how today’s signing will accomplish that.