Late on Friday evening the Buffalo Sabres announced that they finally had come to an agreement with Jeff Skinner and his camp about a new contract. A contract worth $72 million over the coming eight years with an AAV of $9 million. Coming off a career year with 40 goals Skinner were bound to be paid, either by the Sabres or from another team in the league. The Die By The Blade staff share their thoughts on the new contract.
Alexander Nilsson: Finally an end to this saga. For a day or two I thought Sabres twitter would implode over the non existing news about Jeff Skinner and his future in Buffalo. Personally, I had some sort of limit on the cap hit around $8.5 million and is not really sure about it being at $9 million. But on the same time, were there that much choice? Sure, Jason Botterill could have let him walk, a move that I think would have been met with more criticism than the new contract.
Sabres fell on a top three scoring winger at even strength in the league the last seasons when they struck gold in the trade with Carolina and the odds of that happen again this summer were slim. He drives the team offensively, can put the puck in the net, is great at drawing penalties and had good chemistry with Jack Eichel. Sure, $9 million is much but the alternative - starting next season over with a lack of high end wingers is worse in my opinion. I rather pay Skinner, who already have shown that he can play with Eichel and so on, than taking a chance on some UFA later this summer and hope that it pans out.
Sabres have around $20 million in cap space now for the upcoming season and some bad contracts will be off the books next year so I´m not that worried about money, even if I hoped it would be closer to $8.5 million rather than 9. But the fact that Sabres were able to sign a top UFA player in the league this summer sends a statement of some kind, that they are serious. And also - Jeff Skinner WANTS to play in Buffalo.
Ryan Wolfe - It was clear from the word “go” that the Buffalo Sabres wanted Jeff Skinner on this team long-term. With any agreement comes the negotiations and these specific negotiations appeared to come down to the bitter end. Buffalo gets what they wanted - a very consistent goalscorer under contract for the next eight years. Jeff Skinner got what he wanted - to be paid like the talented goalscorer he is. What we saw following the announcement was Skinner talking about how important the location of the Sabres was to him as well, which is a nice little treat. Jason Botterill swung for the fences last offseason when acquiring Skinner and just hit another home run with this contract. It feels like the deal was a little heavy but when it comes to percentage of the salary cap, it is a good deal. Not to mention, the cap will be going up and this deal will look even better.
Melissa Burgess - Honestly? Regardless of the number, I’m really glad that the Sabres extended Skinner. The whole saga was getting to be a little ridiculous, and I was about ready to give up on watching any sort of news until he either signed or announced that he wasn’t. Is $9 million a lot of money? Absolutely. Is $9 million a lot of money to pay Jeff Skinner? Maybe, but it looks better when you see it in the wider context. It’s still not a huge portion of the Sabres’ overall salary cap, and Skinner is still young, and it’s clear that he wants to be in Buffalo. That, to me, is the most important thing. He wants to be here. Sabres fans want him here. Clearly, the organization wants him here. So they got it done, regardless of the cost. I don’t think they overpaid; I think it’s the right amount for the right player, in the right situation.
Kerra Mazzariello - Up until the deal was done, I had absolutely no faith that Skinner would re-sign as a Sabre. I have watched my favorite players leave this city for countless years and I did not think this would be any different. I was mentally preparing myself to be disappointed and luckily, I was wrong. Among many points to comment on, there’s this: he loves to be here. He loved to be here before the win streak and he wanted to be here during and after the season went south. I know a lot of the fans might be nervous about his pay, but the alternative would be him going to a different team like Kane, O’Reilly, etc. We need him and I’m glad he’s here to stay.
Chad DeDominicis - The second objective of the season is complete for Jason Botterill. The Sabres needed Skinner to set up their offseason to have a realistic chance of improving the roster.
The cap hit seems to be the sticking point with a lot of people. Is $9 million a slight overpay? Probably. Having said that, he’s one of the best even strength scorers in the game right now, an extremely impactful player offensively and their best goal scorer at the moment. Also the percentage of the cap he currently occupies is in line with other high end scorers.
There’s always a risk handing out eight-year contracts, but at the end of the day it was a necessary risk for the Sabres.
Anthony Sciandra - Simply put, yeah, $9 million is a slight overpayment, but not as much as some have been lead to believe. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the cap hit itself isn't as relevant as the actual percentage of the cap that is now occupied by this extension.
At the end of the day, the Sabres were simply not in a position to let one of their top-three offensive contributors walk. Their wing depth is already suspect and there are too many existing issues on the docket this summer, so creating another hole by squabbling over half a million dollars would have been senseless.
There is a possibility that the last couple years of this deal will be somewhat ugly, which is why Botterill needs to get to work quickly and fill out the rest of his roster. The Sabres must ice a competitive lineup in short order if they hope to maximize, and get the most out of the early years of this contract. There's still roughly $20 million left to play with this summer, and a lot of money coming off the books in 2020. They're in a good spot financially, but again, there's a lot to address.
Calvin - There will (rightly) be eyebrows raised about both the AAV and the term on the deal that the Sabres gave Skinner. But like many others have noted already, Buffalo couldn’t rightly let one of the best top line pure scorers they’ve had on their roster in decades just walk away.
Considering that before this season the 40-goal mark has only been broken twice in this century for the Sabres (both times by Thomas Vanek), keeping Skinner pretty much at all costs had to be an offseason priority for GM Jason Botterill.
On an inconsistent team, Skinner managed to score 40 goals, 32 of them 5-v-5, an area where the Sabres struggled again last season. In all honesty, it’s a bit of a surprise that this didn’t get resolved even earlier, but now frees up the the Buffalo thinktank to find out how they can continue to improve this roster before the next season.
Ben Mathewson - Signing Unrestricted Free Agents in the back half of their twenties is often a bad idea because for the majority their prime years are behind them or soon to be over. This is a legitimate concern even for a player like Jeff Skinner but at some point you have to have good players on your hockey team and Jeff Skinner is without a doubt a good hockey player and an elite goal scorer. Over the last three seasons he has the third best five-on-five Goals Scored per sixty minutes played (5v5 G/60) in the entire NHL. It’s nearly impossible to just acquire these kinds of goal scorers like the Sabres did last summer so letting a player with his talent walk for nothing is something this team simply couldn’t do.
If players like Alex Nylander or Tage Thompson had shown signs that they may be capable of scoring 30+ goals in the NHL then I think it’s a different story because the Sabres could’ve had the ability to get Skinner to come down to their preferred price because they’d have reasonable replacements ready to step in at a significant discount if he walked. Unfortunately, neither of those players have given any indication that they may become above average goal scores, so Skinner had the leverage and Buffalo needed to keep one of the few good players they currently have.
Erik Wollschlager - As is usually the case, the future market will determine the actual value of this contract. Did Buffalo overpay today - June of 2019? Probably. Skinner is now the third-highest paid left wing in the NHL. Is he the third-best? I would say, no.
With that being said, these contacts are being tossed around like tacos on a Tuesday and overpaying for a finishing forward is the new $6 million for a goaltender. Everyone hates it until everyone’s doing it, or until no one is doing it anymore.
At the end of the day, the team is probably better with Skinner on it, so it was the right move for today, and probably the near future.