Two in the Mailbox: Skinner Extension, Dahlin’s Minutes and waiting on #GOALofsson

Two in the Mailbox, the (sometimes) 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 2intheboxbuffalo@gmail.com.

It’s only been about a month since I trotted out a mailbag, clearly I’m committed to the practice. In the month since the last incarnation the Sabres broke the .500 mark for the first time in years, they’ve looked competent for longer than a period at time and it looks as if they’ve reinvigorated the fanbase to an extent.

The Sabres aren’t without their warts though. They’re still inconsistent and they’ve been over-reliant on the Jack Eichel, Jason Pominville, Jeff Skinner line. Although the line has been phenomenal. But the search for secondary scoring continues and if they manage to manufacture goals outside the trio of 53-9-29 they could really make some noise. With the NHL’s official entry into sports betting, the Sabres could wind up as a sneaky pick if they find some secondary scoring.

Now for the questions.

@sidneypegula – What does a long-term Skinner deal look like?

As with any UFA deal, there’s always some level of risk involved but Skinner is the type of player you don’t allow to reach the open market. Evander Kane’s seven-year, $49,000,000 contract is a really good barometer for Skinner. Negotiations will be dependent on his production this year, but he’s off to a great start. Maybe he pushes for a higher AAV than Kane given their deals will be a year apart, but seven at seven is probably pretty close to what he’ll end up receiving on his next contract.

Peter/@therealgooch1 – Do you see the lack of contract talks with Skinner’s group and Botts as a sign that Botts is favoring to move skinner at the deadline? And if so, what do you think the price is set at right now?

I’m not worried about them getting a contract done with Skinner. They probably needed to see if he’d adapt well to the roster (it looks like he has) before diving into any negotiation. I don’t think anything serious would pick up until January either way. They’re kind of in the hunt right now and I suspect that will be Buffalo’s status for most of the year which leads me to believe they wouldn’t move him at the deadline either. In terms of how things are trending, I’d expect to see an extension get signed at some point in 2019.

Max/@maxwellmarko – When is a reasonable time to be asking for an Olofsson/Pilut callup?

I suspected people we going to clamor for Pilut to be recalled after the first weekend of the year and his play to this point isn’t going to change that any time soon. The only problem is that any recall on defense is going to be dictated by injury unless Botterill does something really wild. Pilut seems to be in the same spot Brendan Guhle was the last year or so, where he’s grabbing a lot of headlines and has the tools which would improve the current crop of blueliners.

Olofsson is probably a heck of a lot closer to heading up the thruway given his hot start. I still think they’re going to try to keep him in Rochester for as long as possible. They have the bodies available to do that as Danny O’Regan, CJ Smith and Alex Nylander could all earn a recall while keeping Olofsson in Rochester to continue growing into the North American game. But if he keeps scoring the way he has the Sabres aren’t going to have a very difficult choice to make.

As to when we should start looking for a recall, I think they could be nearing a point where they bring up a forward in an attempt to add some offense. They aren’t doing anyone a favor by leaving Tage Thompson in the press box and there’s still time until Scott Wilson comes back. I could see them giving one of the youngsters a shot as early as December. Especially if their secondary scoring remains scattershot.

Phil/@pmunny59 – Risto has been bad. That being said do you move him down to the second pair and try to have Dahlin and insert other defenseman here in the first pairing?

Yes. Absolutely yes. I’m not sure what the plan of attack is with Dahlin in terms of really letting him freelance or even if he’s holding back a bit in an effort to gain more comfort on a nightly basis. Although he’s looked awfully comfortable already. I often thought the analytics-based arguments about Ristolainen were a little overblown but he’s not even passing the eye test these days. It seems high time that they throttle back on his usage. Keep him on the kill but moving some of his even strength minutes to Dahlin would be a welcome development for most of the fans. They’re still lacking the overall talent to have a clearly defined top pair and they may not even have the skill to say they have two second pairs. But that’s probably the best course of action – two “second” pairs. At least until there’s another player ready to step into a legitimate NHL role

David/@davidjcervi – Thoughts on Buffalo Rising’s rebrand?

I like it. It has a little bit of 1980s Metro Rail branding to it. Old First Ward probably hates it and if that’s the case you’ll know it’s good. New Logos are fun, I think we need at lest 25% more new logos in Buffalo.

@alexnotander_ – The team is scoring more (17 goals in the last four games) and has more recently had a better shot share. It’s a small sample, but is the offense this good?

They’re definitely better I don’t think there’s any question about that. Even with some of the struggles the other lines are having in finding the back of the net, they’re a much better possession team than they’ve been. Johan Larsson touts their best Corsi percentage for Pete’s sake. They may not be as good as they looked in the stretch against the Habs, Blue Jackets and in LA, but they’re actually spending time in the opposing zone, which is a nice development. There’s still the problem of secondary scoring which doesn’t seem to be going away. If they fix that they’ll be formidable.

@johnyJfox – A month into the season what do you realistically think are playoff chances. We’re hanging onto that last WC spot but Washington, Columbus, and NJ (All with games in hand) being hot on our tails makes me nervous. I know it’s early but I’m just enjoying it while it lasts.

The line of distinction lately is Thanksgiving. Elliotte Freidman has been tracking this for a  few years and only a couple of teams more than four points out of a playoff spot on Thanksgiving have made the playoffs. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll make it but being in that position would be a big step given how quickly they were out of it the last few years. I don’t think this is a playoff team and I expect them to get caught by one of the teams chasing them. But I do think they’ll be in the conversation for most of the year.

Very Bad Trades

I’m sure the Kings would love to give up their world-class center for some…items.

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