Former Sabres winger Jeff Skinner joins Connor McDavid in Edmonton

Jeff Skinner improved his odds of becoming the next former Buffalo Sabre to win the Stanley Cup.

Skinner, the 40-goal scorer the Sabres bought out Sunday, chose to chase the Cup with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton. DailyFaceoff.com’s Frank Seravali reported on Monday that the Oilers signed the former Buffalo winger to a one-year, $3 million contract that will position the 32-year-old to skate next to two of the best players in the world.

The Sabres decided to pay two-thirds of the $22 million remaining on Skinner’s contract to create salary-cap space as they attempt to snap a 13-year playoff drought that’s among the longest in professional sports. General Manager Kevyn Adams told reporters that he chose that route because Skinner was no longer going to be on their top line, first power play or receive top-six minutes. 

The Skinner cap hit for each of the six seasons will be $1.44 million in 2024-25, $4.44 million in 2025-26, $6.44 million in 2026-27, $2.44 million in 2027-28, $2.44 million in 2028-29 and $2.44 million in 2029-30. Adams used a portion of the money Monday to sign winger Jason Zucker and revamped his bottom six with physical forwards Sam Lafferty and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. 

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Former Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill acquired Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018 to give their captain and franchise center, Jack Eichel, another scoring winger. Skinner scored 40 goals during his first season in Buffalo, which convinced ownership to give him an eight-year, $72 million.

The team fired Phil Housley following Skinner’s first season and the former Sabres defenseman’s replacement, Ralph Krueger, saw the franchise’s second-highest player as one-dimensional. Skinner eventually landed on the fourth line, then got scratched three games in a row until his agent, Don Meehan, called Adams to receive an explanation and express concern.

Krueger was fired in March 2021 amid a winless streak that reached 18 games and his replacement, Don Granato, quickly moved Skinner back into a prominent lineup spot. Skinner averaged 30 goals during Don Granato’s three seasons as coach and experienced arguably the best season of his 14-year NHL career in 2023-24.

A three-time All-Star, Skinner had 35 goals and a career-high 82 points while working alongside Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch. The line was a driving force for the Sabres as they finished with 91 points, one shy of helping Skinner reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. 

The 2023-24 was different for Skinner and the Sabres, though. The team got off to a bad start. He excelled until mid-December, when an open-ice hit by the Colorado Avalanche’s Nathan MacKinnon forced Skinner from the game and caused him to miss time.

He told reporters that he wasn’t hindered by an injury while he had only seven goals with 13 points in 36 games after he missed time in December with what the team called an upper-body injury. He skated fewer than 16 minutes in 21 of the final 23 games and averaged only 13:35 of ice time while scoring zero goals in the final 13 games.

Skinner finished the year with 24 goals, but he had only 46 points for the season while his 16 minutes of average ice time across 74 games was the second-lowest total of his career. His 211 shots on goal were the second fewest he has recorded in an 82-game season since he was drafted seventh overall by the Hurricanes in 2010.

The turnovers became more prevalent. Skinner is at his best when he’s trash-talking opponents and driving them crazy with his work below the hashmarks in the offensive zone, but he didn’t make an impact in either area often enough for Granato to keep giving him top-six opportunities.

Skinner’s 282 even-strength goals since 2010 are more than every active player except Patrick Kane, Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand. The former Sabres top-line winger has also produced at least 30 goals in six seasons. Now, he’ll try to help the Oilers in their chase to return to the Stanley Cup final after they lost in Game 7 to the Florida Panthers.

Originally Appeared Here

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