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Jeff Skinner acquisition continues great summer for Sabres

Carolina Hurricanes v New York Rangers

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 03: Jeff Skinner #53 of the Carolina Hurricanes celebrates a goal by Victor Rask #49 (not shown) at 6:36 of the third period against Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on December 3, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Hurricanes 4-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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It’s been a real good summer for the Buffalo Sabres. Drafting Rasmus Dahlin; adding a goaltender in Carter Hutton who could be the answer in goal; picking up speedy Connor Sheary who needed a change of scenery; sending Ryan O’Reilly and his cap hit to the St. Louis Blues for a package that included a good prospect and a first-round pick; and now acquiring a goal scoring winger without giving up any of your three 2019 first rounders.

In a league where a team, with the right moves and everything clicking, can go from bottom of the barrel to playoff team in one year, Sabres fans should certainly be excited about the direction the franchise. After so many seasons to forget about, general manager Jason Botterill has set them up for brighter days.

“The best part of our sport right now is the parity that’s in the National Hockey League,” Botterill said on a conference call with reporters Thursday night. “You always have an opportunity at the start of the year. We’ve made a quite a few adjustments to our team and we’re excited about those changes and excited about some of our young players coming into our group…

“We’re excited about the speed that we’ve added to our group. We’re excited about the youth that we’ve added to our group. We’ve always talked about it. You’re trying to find that balance of bringing in leadership, bringing in players who know how to have had success in the National Hockey League while still looking at the future. That’s what excited us about this acquisition.”

So, yeah, Botterill’s excited, too.
[Sabres make splash, acquire Jeff Skinner from Hurricanes]

After dealing with concussion issues earlier in his career, Skinner has rebounded back into the form of the player that showed promise in his rookie year, a season that earned him the Calder Trophy. He scored 24 times last season and 37 the year before. Fifty of those 61 goals over the last two seasons came at even strength, an area Buffalo needs help. The Sabres have finished 30th, 28th, 28th, and 29th in 5-on-5 scoring over the last four seasons, respectively.

The Hurricanes are getting prospect Cliff Pu and a 2019 second rounder, and a third and a sixth in 2020. That’s some good dealing by Botterill. And depending on how this season goes, or even next off-season, he has those three first rounders he can use as potential trait bait, if needed.

Botterill said he wasn’t sure yet if Skinner would play alongside Jack Eichel or Casey Mittelstadt, but it’s good to have options, something head coach Phil Housley is probably happy about.

The only risk in the deal for the Sabres is that Skinner is entering the final year of his deal and can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But, hey, if it doesn’t work out then a deadline deal can be made. Botterill was pleased that Skinner was open to coming to Buffalo as he only wants to bring players who want to be there. As for extension talks, they want to let him settle into his new situation before moving forward.

Hurricanes GM Don Waddell had been shopping Skinner for a while, but he said Thursday night he didn’t feel as if the value in a return was there for the 26-year-old forward. Also hindering things was the fact that Skinner had a full no-move clause, able to veto any potential deal.

''Buffalo was a team that was always high on his list,” Waddell said. “We felt that the deal we could make with Buffalo is one we could accept and continue to move forward.”


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.