Buffalo Sabres general manager Jason Botterill is doing his best to downplay trade rumours surrounding defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen.
Botterill told The Buffalo News on Saturday that he was not caught off guard by Ristolainen's comments about "being at one of the NHL team's training camps" to a Finnish news outlet earlier this month, but added the team is working to better their relationship with him.
"I was not surprised, not disappointed," Botterill said. "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."
When asked about his future earlier this summer, Ristolainen also told MTV Sports that he hasn't been able to enjoy playing hockey during the Sabres' recent losing seasons.
"We’re continuing to try to set this team up where we’re putting 'Risto' in positions to have success," Botterill continued. "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 defence, add competition to our defence."
Ristolainen, 24, scored five goals and posted 43 points in 78 games this season while averaging 24:38 of ice time. He finished the season with a league-worst minus-41 rating.
Botterilll added that the additions of defencemen Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju on the right side this summer should not be taken as a sign that Ristolainen is now expendable.
"I said it at the end of the regular season, I talked a lot about forwards, having four lines that could score," Botterill said. "But it’s the same thing from the defence standpoint. That’s why we’ve tried to add to our group, to ease some of the responsibility from certain players."
Ristolainen, drafted eighth overall by the Sabres in 2013, is signed for three more years at a cap hit of $5.4 million.