Two in the Mailbox – When Does Mittelstadt get Signed, Next Year’s Goalies and Pipeline Graduates

Two in the Mailbox, the weekly mailbag on the Sabres, goalie stuff, Buffalo and anything in between, is back. You can submit to the mailbag using #2ITBmailbag on Twitter or emailing

Matt/@matt_hervan – Which Casey signs a contract first, Mittelstadt or Nelson?

Sign this man

This is a good one. There’s been some chatter that Mittelstadt will return to Minnestoa for another season rather than signing to play in Rochester. There’s no guarantee that’s what Jason Botterill would want him to do – although it’s likely given his m/o – but that’s an option that would be on the table which could also keep the clock on his entry-level deal from starting. However, if Mittelstadt is to sign it’s my belief that it will come this spring after his season with the Gophers comes to a close. The Sabres would have the ability to pitch him on getting pro games right away, even burning a year of his ELC if it comes to that. He’d get a chance to make his NHL debut and he’d be able to play in the playoffs with Rochester as well, which should be a decent selling point for the player just as it would be an attractive development step for the club.

Getting Nelson extended seems like it’s going to be an offseason task. He’s unrestricted thanks to his Group VI UFA status but he really fits the mold of a true RFA. So it seems likely that once the season wraps up that Botterill will get to work on penning a new contract between Nelson and his agent.

It’s worth noting that my assumptions here are based on rumors and media reports on both player’s contract status. It would be just as easy to view Nelson as a player the Sabres will prioritize now rather than waiting until the summer when the clock is really ticking. Same goes to Mittlestadt as there’s been more than a few reports indicating the full court press will come in the summer.  

Alec/@uGeneolgia – Do you think Rex Tillerson is in the running for the GM job in Carolina?

He has a lot of experience working with a boss who meddles in a lot of his subordinates work so he’d be a decent candidate.

Steve/@stevebermel – What players that are in the system are full-time NHLers next year?

Guhle for sure, seems like Nelson and Baptiste are decent bets as well. Do those three count? I say they count. Ullmark will be up next season as well. I thought Alex Nylander was going to get a look on Eichel’s wing before he tweaked his groin and it wouldn’t shock me if a similar opportunity was extended to him next season.

I’m almost more eager to see which unsigned draft picks are signed this summer. Does Botterill get Asplund, Mittelstadt, Borgen, Olofsson, Hagel and Pu under contract? Does Budik factor in at all? Can he snag a couple of college free agents? Does he even try to lure Casey Fitzgerald or even Jacob Bryson out of school? I think that’s going to be worth watching even closer than the guys who are expected to graduate to the big club.

Michael/@michaelR3435 – Lehner gone. Ullmark and Johnson tandem next year?

If it were up to me I’d take a look at a couple of different veteran options. Guys like Jaroslav Halak or even Michael Hutchinson. Ideally someone who has a little more starting experience and who could play in a true timeshare with Ullmark as opposed to a 50-30 or 60-20 split. I think Johnson could fill that role well and I like him enough that he’d be worth bringing back. But in a perfect world they’d grab someone who could be viewed as a slight upgrade from a backup perspective.

Eric/@chirperic – Who’s your pick at #2 if they land in that spot? 

If you asked me two weeks ago I would’ve said Filip Zadina. But Andrei Svechnikov has been on fire ever since coming back from injury and has really gained back any of the ground he may have ceded early in the year. The top of the draft is well stocked to the point that I’m going to be really impressed with anyone they get with any of the top five or six picks. But when it comes to consolation prizes I think Svechnikov is the one to covet.

Joe/@joetcb –  Do you believe that Reinhart, Girgensons, and Ristolainen were rushed into the NHL too quickly?

On the whole, no. I think you could make a case for Ristolainen but all three were given their fair share of time after signing their entry-level contracts to develop before getting full-time duty.

Reinhart looked much better after his return to Kootenay and Girgensons got an entire AHL season, which was likely more beneficial than a season at Vermont would have been after being drafted. You could argue that Ristolainen should have spent the entire 13-14 season in Rochester and shuffled between Rochester and Buffalo in 14-15. But I don’t think any of the decisions made on those three caused any sort of stunted growth. Like with the rest of the team, I think you’d see better contributions from them with a better talent throughout the roster.

Derek/@d_jedamski – Who is the greatest goal scorer in NHL history and why is it Ovechkin?

This is one of those impossible to compare generational questions. Gretzky holds one of those records which will never be broken – both single season and all-time – but a fair segment of the goals he scored would be routine saves in today’s game. You can apply similar logic to Gordie Howe and Mario Lemieux as well. Conversely you can’t discount the greatness those guys played with and just how dominant they were in their respective eras. I’m hesistant to give Ovie the crown but you don’t have to work hard to convince me he’s a top-three all time scorer in league history.

Eric/@ericsignals – With Eichel coming back you think we will see a Eichel/Rodrigues/O’Regan line combo trial for a game or two?

I think no simply because I don’t know how eager they are to bring O’Regan up. He’s a dynamo at the AHL level and with a handful of bodies up here already and a few key injuries factored in, giving the Amerks some star power is a good move for the time being.

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