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Sabres Mailbag: Dahlin's impact on O'Reilly, Ristolainen, Eichel

There's no doubt Rasmus Dahlin should change the future of the Buffalo Sabres. If he's even close to what's being advertised, Dahlin will one day join Phil Housley and John Van Boxmeer as the only Buffalo defensemen to top 60 points in a season.

It won't be right away, however.

Since 1990, only two rookie blue-liners have even reached 50 points. Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom had 60 in 1991-92 and Vladimir Malakhov put up 52 in 1992-93. Calgary's Dion Phaneuf (49) and the 48-point trio of Los Angeles' Alexei Zhitnik, Buffalo's Tyler Myers and the New York Islanders' Bryan Berard came close.

So while Dahlin should be great, it won't be right away. That's why many of the questions for this edition of the Sabres Mailbag deal with the immediate future. The questions sent via Twitter to @BuffNewsVogl are touched up to include first names and punctuation.

From @williamkevin24: Hopefully, the jubilation of winning the lottery hasn't deterred Jason Botterill from staying on task and tearing up this roster. What would trades of both Sam Reinhart and Ryan O'Reilly bring? Would a trade to acquire an early pick (like Brady Tkachuk) be in play?

Answer: Botterill has an emotional side, but the Sabres' general manager is the analytical type. He knows one player can't mask this team's shortcomings, so the jubilation won't alter his plans.

On the ice, O'Reilly is the same guy he was three years ago when Buffalo gave up three prospects and the No. 31 overall pick for him and Jamie McGinn. O'Reilly hasn't been the off-ice leader that Tim Murray expected, but a trade package would be similar.

Botterill, however, consistently mentions the center depth provided by Jack Eichel, O'Reilly and Casey Mittelstadt. While O'Reilly has the most trade value (and I'll stick with my recent Inside the Sabres that he'd welcome a deal), signs lean toward the center sticking around.

Reinhart was nearly a point-per-game player during the second half of the season. He has developed a scoring touch in the "dirty areas" that are brought up 1,000 times per season.

As points pile up, Sabres' Reinhart living up to draft promise

But Botterill also mentions Buffalo's need to play faster. Reinhart isn't a burner. Teams that don't play a speed game could be interested in the restricted free agent, though I'm guessing none of those teams are selecting in the Tkachuk range of the top five.

From @johnnyb1211: Do you think drafting Dahlin could lead to Rasmus Ristolainen being traded and what are your personal feelings on if he should be moved or not?

Answer: When the season ended, Ristolainen was No. 1 on my trade-him list. He doesn't know anything but losing, which has altered his sense of competitiveness.

He said during his exit interview that he works hard every day on and off the ice. I understand his game workload is extensive, but he's one of the first players to leave practice and the arena. He's never hanging out with teammates in the dressing room.

Maybe he goes home to work out. Maybe he chats with players before practice. It just seems like the 23-year-old is lacking the full-time competitive edge the Sabres need.

While I can't see him growing into a No. 1 defenseman, it's very tempting to see how he'd complement Dahlin. He's a steady 40-point guy. With Dahlin eventually quarterbacking the first power play, Ristolainen could boost the woeful second unit.

There was a zero percent chance I'd have said this one week ago, but I'd lean toward keeping him. I'd listen to offers, though.

Losing takes toll on Sabres' Rasmus Ristolainen

From @Stuffed_Pizza: Dahlin and Eichel aren’t enough to turn this franchise around, in my opinion. So, how much of this roster can effectively be “turned over” before the start of next season?

Answer: The problem is who would give up anything for these guys?

Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson have combined for 24 goals and 35 assists in the last 262 games. Kyle Okposo just turned 30, is coming off his worst season in years and has five seasons left on a contract that pays $6 million per year. Zach Bogosian never plays and Nathan Beaulieu was a disappointment.

Unless Botterill takes pennies on the dollar (and that might be worth it), there will be less movement than needed in one offseason.

Inside the Sabres: Saying goodbye to underachievers won't be easy

From @Chainshot13: Does the lottery win change Botterill's view of the second pairing being Jake McCabe/Bogosian? And if O'Reilly is moved, who takes the ridiculous D-zone starts from within or who gets acquired to fill some of that usage?

Answer: McCabe has trade value. Buffalo would be able to swap defense depth for forward depth. Adding Dahlin bumps McCabe down to No. 4 among left-handed defensemen behind the rookie, Marco Scandella and Brendan Guhle.

Regardless of O'Reilly's team, Eichel absolutely needs to get better at faceoffs. Winning just 41.5 percent borders on embarrassing. Sidney Crosby knew it was his flaw early in his career, and the Pittsburgh captain worked to become elite. Eichel needs the same desire.

From @NicholsKT: With the defense seemingly shored up with Dahlin and Lawrence Pilut coming aboard, how do the Sabres fix the mess that is their left wing? It will be necessary to help Jack Eichel reach the next level.

Answer: As accomplished as Pilut is in Sweden, it's easy to envision him spending at least half a season in Rochester. He could grow into an impact signing.

Reported Sabres signee Lawrence Pilut named Swedish league's top defenseman

There is no bigger organizational hole than left wing. The NHL players under contract are Evan Rodrigues and Zemgus Girgensons. Scott Wilson is an RFA. Rochester was led by C.J. Smith, Danny O'Regan and Alex Nylander, and there are question marks with all.

The top free agents will be Vegas' David Perron, Toronto's James van Riemsdyk, San Jose's Evander Kane and old friend Thomas Vanek. Van Riemsdyk turns 29 on Saturday. While he'd be the finisher Eichel needs, the Sabres would be signing yet another guy who would be around into his mid-30s.

From @jimgobills: Of these three, which, if any, will be full-time Sabres next year? Justin Bailey, Nick Baptiste, Nylander.

Answer: Bailey was Rochester's best forward during a short playoff series. He showed everything it takes to be successful in the NHL: speed, scoring touch and a willingness to block shots. The 22-year-old needs to do it all the time, and the playoffs may have earned him a chance.

Buffalo kept Baptiste around for the final three months, so it must like him. He needs to rediscover the scoring touch that made him a potent junior player.

Nylander believes he's too good for the American Hockey League, which is why he languishes on the fourth line there. The 20-year-old is not an NHL player at the moment.

Alex Nylander fails to inspire with Sabres watching

From @Ringo1256: What is the chance the third Rasmus (Asplund) is a contributor to the Sabres' upcoming season? Everything I read seems to indicate he’s a great 200-foot player.

Answer: Asplund will be headed to the organization next season, but he'll be ticketed for Rochester. Like the aforementioned Pilut, there's a learning curve after arriving from Europe.

From @Leninthebuff: Is Victor Antipin a one and done?

Answer: The defenseman wouldn't commit either way at locker cleanout, but it's easy to picture him returning to the Kontinental Hockey League. He was a champion in Russia and a no-goal healthy scratch in Buffalo. The Sabres could trade the pending RFA if he wants to stay in the NHL.

From @JFPjflo: Is Jack now the second most talented guy on the roster? Or in a couple years will he be? How does that affect captaincy, etc.?

Answer: An also-ran at age 21. Tough luck, Jack.

Seriously, though, it would be great for the organization if Dahlin does eclipse Eichel. The Sabres need that kind of talent. Based on what we've seen as Eichel has matured, the talent will look to Captain Jack even if he's the second-best player.

Mike Harrington: Ex-Sabre Mike Weber stoked by what he saw in stint as Dahlin's teammate

Bucky Gleason: Tale of two franchises important when comparing Dahlin to Lidstrom

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