Boy, is Rasmus Ristolainen playing with some major confidence right now. Beast. 1-0 @BuffaloSabres pic.twitter.com/KkbJfLMFeU— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) November 28, 2018The Sabres acquisition of Brandon Montour before the trade deadline, plus the solid debut of rookie Rasmus Dahlen, could make Ristolainen expendable. A skilled all-around rearguard, he regularly led the Sabres in ice time (averaging 24:38 this season), hits and blocked shots. Ristolainen’s also a mobile blueliner with a right-handed shot coming off his fourth straight 40-plus point campaign.Botterill might be reluctant to part with Ristolainen, who carried a cap-friendly $5.45-million annual average value through 2021-22. Nevertheless, he could be tempted if a rival club seeking a top-four defenseman offers up a scoring forward.Whatever moves Botterill makes this summer must bring about immediate improvement for the Sabres. Another sputtering effort like this season could cost him his job by next April, if not sooner. A promising start to 2018-19 ending badly for the Buffalo Sabres. After sitting in first place in the Atlantic Division on Nov. 27 and still holding a playoff berth on New Year’s Day, the Sabres stumbled through the second half of the schedule and missed the playoffs for the eighth straight year.Heading into his third offseason as the Sabres general manager, Jason Botterill is likely feeling pressure from the club’s ownership and long-suffering Buffalo fans to jump-start a stalled rebuild. He wasted little time shaking things up behind the bench, firing head coach Phil Housley after two disappointing seasons. Finding a suitable replacement for Housley is an obvious priority. The Sabres are making their fifth coaching change since 2013 and there’s a critical need for stability behind the bench.PICK: Eastern Conference | Western ConferenceFormer Edmonton Oilers bench boss Todd McLellan was rumored to be a leading candidate for the job. That’s no longer the case as he’s now linked to the Los Angeles Kings. Former New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault would’ve made a suitable option but he was hired Monday by the Philadelphia Flyers.Botterill’s biggest task will be re-signing Jeff Skinner. Acquired from the Carolina Hurricanes last summer for the bargain price of a draft pick and a prospect, the 26-year-old left winger quickly established chemistry with center Jack Eichel. The result was the first 40-goal season of Skinner’s career, just in time for his unrestricted free agency on July 1.Skinner is completing a six-year, $34.35-million contract ($5.75 million annual average value). He could seek over $9 million annually on a long-term deal.Jeff Skinner joined John Tavares as the second player to score at least 40 goals in their first season with a team.The 2005-06 season was the last to feature 2+ players: Dany Heatley (50 w/ OTT) and Alex Ovechkin (52 w/ WSH). #NHLStats #BUFvsDET pic.twitter.com/PqJUDu3DnP— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) April 7, 2019The Athletic’s John Vogl recently reported Botterill believes he can get a deal done with Skinner before July 1. Failing that, he’ll have to find a new first-line left winger. Vogl suggested New York Islanders captain Anders Lee and Columbus Blue Jackets forward Ryan Dzingel as the only viable options in this year’s UFA market.Skinner, meanwhile, doesn’t intend to rush into things. He told The Buffalo News’ Lance Lysowski he liked his teammates and enjoyed playing in Buffalo but will take some time to ponder his future.To retain Skinner, Botterill could have little choice but to open the vault. Letting him walk sends the wrong message to the Sabres (especially Eichel) and their fans that ownership isn’t willing to invest in retaining the best talent.Assuming Botterill gets Skinner under contract, he then must bolster their secondary scoring. He acknowledged this issue during his end-of-season press conference, admitting the team relied too much on Skinner, Eichel and Sam Reinhart for the bulk of their production. While the Sabres will continue developing their young talent, such as Casey Mittelstadt, Victor Olofsson and Alexander Nylander, Botterill said Buffalo will also look for additional offense.Cap Friendly indicates the Sabres have over $53.5 million tied up on 15 players for next season. Assuming ownership is willing to spend toward next season’s projected cap of $83 million, there’s plenty of room to re-sign Skinner to a hefty raise and pursue a scorer or two via trade or free agency.Botterill could find it difficult attracting free-agent talent like Columbus’ Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene to a rebuilding club like the Sabres. The trade market could be his best option to land a scorer.MORE: NHL mock draft 2019: lottery prizes aplenty after No. 1His best trade chip could be Rasmus Ristolainen. As the regular season wound down, the 24-year-old defenseman surfaced in media trade chatter. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported a number of clubs scouted Ristolainen following the February trade deadline.