"We're continuing to try to set this team up where we're putting Risto in positions to have success," Botterill told Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News. "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."
Since the 2019 trade deadline, the Sabres have acquired three right-handed defensemen: Brandon Montour, Colin Miller, and Henri Jokiharju. With the team boasting a surplus at a position coveted throughout the league, Ristolainen has been viewed as a logical trade candidate to help bolster a thin forward group.
Ristolainen has had an up-and-down tenure in Buffalo and even hinted last week he may want out, telling a news outlet in his native Finland he "hasn't been able to enjoy hockey" amid the Sabres' losing seasons. Ryan O'Reilly made similar comments at the end of the 2017-18 season and was shipped to the St. Louis Blues the following offseason.
"I was not surprised, not disappointed," Botterill said of his blue liner's admissions. "Look, there's always stories coming out when players go back, and Finland's had an amazing year with (gold medals at the) world juniors and World Championship.
"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."
Ristolainen has enjoyed four straight 40-point seasons but claimed the 2018-19 Green Jacket by finishing with an NHL-worst minus-41 rating. Still, the 24-year-old is signed to a relatively team-friendly contract, carrying a $5.4-million cap hit for three more seasons.
The Sabres are currently about $1 million over the cap ceiling, according to CapFriendly, but could likely become cap compliant by placing one or both of Zach Bogosian and Matt Hunwick on long-term injured reserve.