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Ristolainen on lack of Sabres deal: 'I still trust that we will make that contract happen'

TORONTO -- No contract in Buffalo doesn't appear to be a problem for Rasmus Ristolainen.

The Sabres defenseman is an unsigned restricted free agent, one of the most prominent players at the World Cup of hockey in that category. But he told The News on Media Day in Air Canada Centre that's he's confident he'll get things taken care of after the tournament and be ready to head to Sabres camp when Team Finland's play is completed.

"It doesn't bother me at all. I don't worry about it," Ristolainen said Thursday. "I'm 100 percent here for Team Finland. Then let's see what happens with Buffalo after the tournament. I've never been in this situation before so I really don't know how long it takes or how the contract things work.

"It doesn't bother me, but on the other hand I'm not happy it's this long too. I still trust that we will make that contract happen. I like Buffalo. I want to be there as long as I can and I feel they feel the same way about me. I trust it's going to be taken care of."

Ristolainen is one of a handful of prominent players with a deal in the tournament. Like Team North America forward Johnny Gaudreau and defenseman Jacob Trouba, they're playing with insurance from the NHL and NHLPA. Ristolainen and agent Mike Liut, the former NHL goalie, are expected to be looking for a deal of 5-6 years. Ristolainen wrapped up his entry-level deal last season at the maximum cap hit of $925,000.

Ristolainen, who is slated to continue to anchor the Sabres' top defensive pair, has been the stud defenseman for Team Finland thus far in pre-tournament play. He's led his team in ice time by a wide margin while averaging 24 1/2 minutes over the three games.

"It's actually felt pretty easy in these exhibition games," he said. "I've worked hard all summer. I feel like I'm in great shape and I can handle those minutes for sure."

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