After just one season in Buffalo, the Sabres have decided to lock up left wing Jeff Skinner to a long-term deal that will pay him $72 million over the next eight seasons.
The $9 million per year cap hit might be a little much for Skinner, but he was really good for them in his first season in Buffalo, scoring 40 goals, which ranked tied for seventh in the league. The former Calder Memorial Trophy winner was also fairly efficient this season, finding the back of the net on 14.9% of his shots on goal, which was not only a new career-high for him, but it was also a big improvement from the season before when he netted only 8.7% of his shots on goal as a member of the Hurricanes. He also ranked fifth in hockey this season in even strength goals with 32.
Skinner comes with a high price tag for this Sabres team, but his importance to the franchise can’t be overstated. Buffalo was 24th this last season in goal scoring. If he were to hit free agency and leave they would tumble even further into irrelevancy because they would lose that offense and they were also one of the worst defensive teams this past season.
On top of that is that his plus/minus this season was even, which was by far the best on the team out of players who were regulars.
Buffalo has a lot of issues on the roster, but they do now have Skinner in it for the long haul and they also have Jack Eichel locked up at $10 million per year through the 2025-26 season. Eichel led the team in points this past season from the center position and between those two it gives them a solid front line to start with as they try and break their postseason drought that has been going on since the 2010-11 season.
Again, this deal is well worth it because they need him to even be fairly competitive because without him they’d be looking at likely dropping to second-to-last or even last in the Atlantic Division.
Skinner is also someone the team can rely on. He’s got a fairly slight frame at only 5’11”, 187 LBS, but despite that he has played in all 82 games in three of the last four seasons, including this past season, his first in Buffalo.
Now the Sabres will likely have some cap space this offseason and over the next couple of seasons to go out and improve so it will be on the front office to go out and get something around Skinner and Eichel and that’ll start with fixing the goaltending situation and trying to find more depth on the wing.
Top Photo: Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press