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Though contract talks are cold, Sabres' Ristolainen back on ice

ST. CATHARINES, Ont. – Lounging around wasn’t doing Rasmus Ristolainen any good, so he figured the best way to stay in shape was to skate with the Buffalo Sabres.

He hopes to get paid for it one of these days.

Ristolainen reported to Sabres training camp without a contract Thursday, a “good will” gesture that got Buffalo’s top defenseman back with his teammates. The Sabres and the restricted free agent are not close in their negotiations, however, so how long Ristolainen sticks around will depend on upcoming talks.

“Everyone knows how dedicated he is to his training, and he wanted to continue to build on the gains he made this summer,” Ristolainen’s agent, Mike Liut, said in an email to The Buffalo News. “He skipped the World Championship so he would have a full 16-week training session leading up to the World Cup, so he's more prepared than ever and wants to keep it that way.

“In the end, this made sense to him, at least in the short term.”

With the blessing of Sabres General Manager Tim Murray, Ristolainen practiced in KeyBank Center with the Buffalo players who sat out Thursday night’s preseason game against Toronto.

“He wants to be back on the ice with his teammates, and that’s a good thing,” coach Dan Bylsma said.

Ristolainen’s willingness to take the ice is in contrast to other big-name RFAs still looking for deals. Winnipeg defenseman Jacob Trouba has asked for a trade, while Calgary forward Johnny Gaudreau has made it clear he won’t skate without a contract.

The Sabres are planning to use Ristolainen in their top defensive pairing along with Dmitry Kulikov, and the 21-year-old is looking to get paid like a No. 1 blue-liner. The negotiators are reportedly apart by $1 million per year. The season starts Oct. 13, and Ristolainen must sign by Dec. 1 or sit out the whole year.

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