I obviously have no hard data to back this up, but I think it's fair to say that most fans are clamoring for the Buffalo Sabres to extend Jeff Skinner. But would that be a good idea? To answer that question, you first have to ask what it would cost to retain him.
Career GPG: 0.36, Career PPG: 0.67, Career CF%: 57.6, Career CFrel%: 7.5
2018 GPG: 0.67, 2018 PPG: 1.0, 2018 CF%: 60.5, 2018 CFrel%: 16.4
What stands out immediately is that Skinner is having himself a career year. How much of that is sustainable though? It would appear that the possession numbers are rather sustainable. Last year with the Carolina Hurricanes, he put up a CF% of 60.3, which is right in line with what is doing right now. But what about the production?
Skinner is undoubtedly being buoyed by an insanely high shooting percentage. He's attempted 140 shots and scored on 21 of them. He's scoring on 15 percent of his shot attempts and 23 percent of his shots on goal. This is well above his career percentages of 6.2 percent and 11.2 percent respectively. Nor is his increased production even partially explained by him generating more shot attempts. He's currently on pace to make 370.3 attempts this year. That would put him below his career 82-game average of 475. Nor is there much evidence that he's generating more high danger scoring chances than in years past. So a strong case can be made that it would be unwise to factor Skinner's recent production heavily into what his next payday should be.
Now, if I were Skinner's agent, there are some arguments - but I don't think they are that great. You could argue, for instance, that Skinner is just now showing what he can do when paired with a player of Jack Eichel's caliber. The best he's previously played with is a 76-point version of Eric Staal. Eichel, meanwhile, is on a 100-point pace.
There's some data to support this argument beyond mere hand waiving. Skinner is currently on pace for 145 independently generated high danger scoring chances. That would be a career high. His previous high was in 2010-2011 when he had 143. That year he scored 31 goals with a shooting percentage of 14.2. So while shooting percentage is accounting for some of his production--so is the fact that he's generating high danger chances at a higher clip--something that his agent would argue is sustainable given his elite running mate in Eichel.
A second point that I would make, were I Skinner's agent, is that he may be showing himself to be a good faceoff man. He's on pace to take 238 faceoffs which would be a career high by a significant margin. And he's doing quite well--winning 57 percent of them. This may be a new and previously unrealized aspect of his game serving to increase his versatility.
So there are arguments both ways but I think it would be foolish to pay him based on this year's stats alone. Some augmentation of his career numbers is probably warranted though to reflect his recent production.
So let's find some comparables:
Yanni Gourde: 6 years/31 million (5.165 per). Gourde is a late bloomer who played his first season in the nhl in 2017-2018, scoring 25 goals and 64 points in that year. He was 25 that off-season when he signed his deal. Skinner will be a year older when he signs, but could very well be coming off a 40-50 goal season rather than a 25 goal season. He also would have a longer history of being a 20+ goal guy (which helps and hurts him--it makes him less likely to fall off the face of the earth, but also probably less likely to be a 40-50 goal guy the rest of his career).
Tyler Seguin: 8 years/78.8 (9.85 million per) . Seguin has a career GPG of .43 which is higher than Skinner's career mark, but then again, much lower than his 2018 rate. Seguin is also a center--which contribrutes to his value. He is also more of a playmaker than Skinner, with a career PPG close to 1.0. Seguin was also a year younger (25 years old) when he signed his contract.
Max Pacioretty: 4 years/28 (7 mil per). Pacioretty has a career GPG 0.36. That's similar to Skinner's. However, he was 29 when he signed. Similar to Skinner, he is a career positive posession player as well.
Conclusion: Skinner is clearly more valuable to me than Gourde but is less valuable than Seguin for a variety of reasons. He is very comparable to Pacioretty, but deserves more years because of his age, and probably more money because of his recent production.
So I think a fair contract might be something like 7 years / $60 million ($8.57 AAV).
The question the Sabres have to ask is whether that's do-able. It certainly is for 2019-2020 with about 30 million in mostly dead weight coming off the books. However, in 2020-2021, they will have 32.2 million allocated to just 10 players. That sounds good, but the following players will be free agents of some sort that off-season: Sam Reinhart, Casey Mittelstadt, Lawrence Pilut, Tage Thompson, Conor Sheary, Zach Bogosian, Marco Scandella, Casey Nelson, Matt Hunwick, Brandon Hickey, Andrew Oglevie, Alexander Nylander, Victor Olofsson, and Brendan Guhle.
Then in 2021-2022 they will have to re-sign Rasmus Dahlin, Will Borgen, Rasmus Asplund, Ukko Pekka-Luukkonen, and Carter Hutton. Rasmus Ristolainen is up for a new contract the following year. Linus Ulmark needs to be re-signed this off-season so add him into that mix of contracts that need to get done.
My preference is to pull the trigger on re-signing Skinner. The future is uncertain and we don't know who will command what sort of contract. It's certainly possible that signing Skinner could hamstring us. But the prospect of pairing him up with Eichel for the next 7 years is very appetizing and can cover up for a lot of sins elsewhere (as we see this year).