Jeff Skinner, who would have been one of the most coveted free-agent wingers this summer, is officially off the market after signing an eight-year, $72 million contract extension with the Buffalo Sabres on Friday.
Skinner, 27, had a career-high 40 goals in his first season in Buffalo, which acquired him last summer from the Carolina Hurricanes for Cliff Pu, plus Buffalo's second-round pick in this year's draft and a third- and sixth-rounder in 2020. He waived his trade protection to come to the Sabres.
Skinner 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.
Eight. More. Years. 😍 pic.twitter.com/i6AfBlizT6— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) June 8, 2019
"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 the Sabres out of contention, as he scored just four goals and had 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 wing against the salary cap, behind only Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals ($9,538,462) and Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars ($9,500,000). Skinner has the second-highest cap hit on the Sabres behind Eichel, who makes $10 million against the cap.
Because 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 Hurricanes. He won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2011. He has yet to appear in a postseason game in his NHL career; the Sabres haven't appeared in the playoffs since 2011.