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Buffalo Sabres will use buyout on Jeff Skinner

Nov 7, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner (53) celebrates a Sabres goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during the third period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Sabres choose to move on from the popular forward, but it comes at quite the cost

NHL insiders had been telling us for weeks now that the Buffalo Sabres were going to end Jeff Skinner’s time in Western New York. With Sunday being the last day they could activate the buyout, the Sabres are now making the move having failed to trade him away, and the 32-year-old forward will now become a free agent tomorrow when NHL Free Agency begins.

Speaking at the closing of the 2024 NHL Entry Draft on Saturday evening in Las Vegas, General Manager Kevyn Adams said –

“We initiated the process today, so it’s a step-by-step process. We started that process early this morning. That’s our intention moving forward.”

Saddled with an albatross of a contract at $9 million for eight years, Buffalo finally decided to cut their losses by choosing to buy out Skinner. The forward still had three years left of that contract, and the math is simple, but ugly in the long term.

Adams is gambling that an annual rising NHL salary cap will negate the sunk cost especially in years four through six, when a lot of the current core will be due vast sums of money. However, it’s in years two and three when the actual cap hit sinks in that will really hurt.

Per Puckpedia’s nifty buyout calculator, here is a quick summary of what that transaction looks like, and here’s a disclaimer, it’s not pretty when you look ahead. His age of 32 makes his buyout multiplier 0.67, and with $22m of his base contract left to be paid, it leaves a buyout amount of $14,666,667 which is then divided over six years (double the term left on his current contract), to give you $2,444,444.

Jeff Skinner2024-252025-262026-272027-282028-292029-30
Original Cap Hit$9,000,000$9,000,000$9,000,000
Base Salary($10,000,000)($7,000,000)($5,000,000)(-)(-)(-)
Total Salary($10,000,000)($7,000,000)($5,000,000)(-)(-)(-)
Signing Bonus
Annual Buyout Cost$2,444,444$2,444,444$2,444,444$2,444,444$2,444,444$2,444,444
Actual Cap Hit$1,444,444$4,444,444$6,444,444$2,444,444$2,444,444$2,444,444

However, what this does though is gives Buffalo some wiggle room this season for new returning head coach Lindy Ruff to try and retool this roster into one that can make the playoffs, ending a drought that’s akin to the Israelites 40-year desert sojourn. The Sabres now have about $31m in cap space entering free agency.

Whether the Sabres use that cap space to make a big move remains to be seen, but Adams has so far failed to close out any big trades, even though he completed one yesterday for bottom six forward Beck Malenstyn.

Talking Points