In this series we build the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster one by one leading up to the season opener on October 3.
27 yrs. old
5'11" 187 lbs.
2010, seventh-overall (CAR)
Career stats: 661 games | 244 goals | 198 assists | 442 points | -96
"The book on Jeff Skinner is that he likes the puck on his stick, has the speed, wicked maneuverability and stickwork to get into prime scoring areas and, obviously, has the skill-level to finish."
That's what we wrote last year
prior to the Markham, Ontario native's first season with the Buffalo Sabres. And that's what we got.
Sabres fans had an opportunity to see Skinner first-hand on a regular basis in 2018-19 and what he was able to do in the first half of the season was eye-opening as we watched him cut tight circles while finding his way to open ice before depositing the puck. The thought of Buffalo actually landing a player of his caliber for what amounted to very little in a trade made Sabreland giggle. Skinner was everything he was touted to be and the chemistry between him and center Jack Eichel was unmistakable.
During Buffalo's 10-game-winning streak in November Eichel dished and Skinner finished to the tune of 10 goals for the new Sabre. He would finish with 28 goals through 41 games in the first half of last season which put him on a pace to become Buffalo's first 50-goal scorer since 1992-93.
It didn't happen.
The Sabres slumped from mid-December onward and Skinner's goal-totals reflected that. In the 18 games from Jan 5 at Boston to suffering what appeared to be a pretty gruesome injury vs. Washington on February 23, Skinner managed eight goals but after that his production fell off of a cliff with only four goals (two in the final game of the season) in the final 23 games. Although it was enough to get him to a career-high 40 goals, that swoon over the latter portion of the season was cause for concern. At least amongst the fan base.
Last season Skinner was in the final year of a 6yr./$34.350 million deal he signed in August, 2012 with the Carolina Hurricanes. He had taken the league by storm as a rookie with 31 goals while on his way to 2011 Rookie of the Year honors and followed that up with two more years of goal-scoring at a similar pace (33 goals in 106 games.) Five more seasons in Carolina yielded 140 goals in 391 games which was right in line with his career goals/game average.
Numbers like that were very attractive, especially for a team like Buffalo that was the worst scoring team in the league over the prior five seasons. Sabres general manager Jason Botterill set his sights on increasing scoring and Skinner fit right into what he wanted, especially from a 5v5 perspective. In all Skinner score 159 even strength goals for Carolina since entering the league in 2010-11 placing tied for 10th (Max Pacioretty) in that category. Botterill liked what he saw and pulled the trigger on a trade with the Hurricanes.
Skinner continued to do in Buffalo what he'd always done--score goals--and this past season he scored 32 of his 40 goals even-strength, good for 5th in the league. With that he upped his career total to 191 placing him fifth in the league for his career behind only Alexander Ovechkin (233,) John Tavares (210,) Patrick Kane (209) and Steven Stamkos (203) during that span.
At the end of the season, the questions surrounding his future in Buffalo centered around the contract he would get. On one side he had the numbers as a goal-scorer while on the other there was that latter-season stretch where he disappeared. There may have questions in Sabreland of whether or not he wanted to be a Buffalo Sabre long-term but an 8yr./$72 million contract signed on June 7 put those fears to rest and Skinner would be in the fold throughout the rest of his prime years and beyond.
Is a winger worth that much? Especially when the Sabres really needed a No. 2 center?
That will be the question moving forward and with any dip in production, or any cap problems the team might incur, the nay-sayers will come out in full force saying what an atrocious contract Buffalo signed him to.
In saying that, all indications point to Skinner letting things like that roll off of his back. One would think that the $5.75 million cap-hit he was carrying in Carolina as a very young, highly paid player put undue pressure on him yet despite that Skinner was very consistent in his game and goal-scoring. There's no reason to believe things will be different with him moving forward.
What it really comes down to is the Sabres found themselves a goal-scorer who wanted to play in Buffalo and you can't let an opportunity like that slip away.
Building the 2019-20 Buffalo Sabres roster:
LW, Jeff Skinner
/ C, Jack Eichel