Jeff Skinner, who would have been one of the most coveted free-agent wingers this summer, is officially off the market.
Skinner, 27, signed an eight-year, $72-million contract extension with the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Skinner had a career-high 40 goals in his first season in Buffalo, who acquired him last summer from the Carolina Hurricanes for Cliff Pu, Buffalo’s 2nd round pick in 2019 NHL Draft, 3rd round pick in 2020 NHL Draft and 6th round pick in 2020 NHL Draft. Skinner waived his trade protection to come to the Sabres.
He opted not to sign an extension during the season, leading to some speculation the Sabres would potentially move him at the trade deadline. But while Skinner was waiting to maximize his earning potential in a career year, Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill was confident the team and the player could get a deal done.
“Both sides want to get a deal. I think it’s been a very good relationship, and we’ve continued the dialogue going. I understand people want a deal done as of yesterday,” Botterill said Wednesday at a news conference introducing new head coach Ralph Krueger. “We want him to be a part of our group moving forward here.”
Skinner scored 40 goals and added 23 assists in 82 games for Buffalo, playing most of the season with star center Jack Eichel, who posted career highs in goals (28) and points (82). But Skinner’s production dropped dramatically in the final two months of the season with Sabres out of contention, scoring just four goals and two assists in his final 19 games.
Clearly, that didn’t give the team pause. Skinner’s $9 million average annual contract value makes him the third highest paid left win against the cap at the moment, behind only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals ($9,538,462) and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars ($9,500,000). He has the second highest cap hit on the Sabres behind Eichel, who makes $10 million against the cap.
Since they were the team he played for last season, the Sabres were the only ones who could give Skinner an eight-year contract.
Skinner has 244 goals and 198 assists in 661 games, the majority of them with the Carolina Hurricanes. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2011. He’s yet to appear in a postseason game in his NHL career. The Sabres haven’t appeared in the playoffs since 2011.