Buffalo Sabres: Already looking to the future with Jeff Skinner

Jeff Skinner #53 of the Buffalo Sabres before the game against the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
Jeff Skinner #53 of the Buffalo Sabres before the game against the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /

Jeff Skinner is off to an excellent start with the Buffalo Sabres, but thoughts are already turning towards after the season, when he is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

Professional sports are a constant battle between now and the future; regardless of how well a team may be performing, there is always a tendency to look down the road. A prime example of this is taking place in Western New York, for the Buffalo Sabres.

Jeff Skinner has been a revelation for the Sabres, after joining the team via a trade in August. He is off to an excellent start this season with 13 points in 13 games entering Saturday’s slate of fixtures, including a team-leading seven goals.

(In fact, the Sabres are leading 7-1 in the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the time of posting this article. This includes two goals and an assist for Skinner, giving him 16 points on the season.)

Even at this early stage of the 2018-19 campaign, analysts and fans alike are wondering if the 26-year-old can surpass his previous high of 63 points. He has achieved this mark twice in his career, including a rookie season which saw him win the Calder Memorial Trophy at the age of just 18.

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However, no matter how well Skinner may be playing, the Sabres’ front office needs to concern themselves with the future. The winger is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season.

At this stage, all signs point towards the Swords aiming to negotiate a contract extension with the 2010 seventh overall draft pick. He has already proved his worth to the team; his combination of talent, quickness, hockey IQ, age and work ethic is exactly what the team needs long-term, as they aim to become a contender.

The question is, what will it take to re-sign a player who is sure to be in demand? Skinner is earning $6 million this season, and has a cap hit of $5.725 million.

All indications point towards the Markham, Ontario native earning at least $7 million annually in his next deal. Fortunately for the Sabres, they will be in a good position to persuade him to remain in Buffalo past this season.

As things stand, the Swords have just under $60.6 million allocated to 15 players for next season. The salary cap for this season is $79.5 million, and there is no reason to believe it won’t increase for the 2019-20 campaign.

About the only reason for any doubt regarding extending Skinner, relates to concussion issues. However, while such a concern is entirely understandable — both for the team and the player himself — this is still someone who has only missed 43 of a possible 622 regular season games entering the 2018-19 campaign.

Overall, the Sabres are eager to reward a fan base which has not been to the playoffs since the 2010-11 season, and endured two last-place finishes in the NHL standings during that time. In order to turn the franchise’s fortunes around they need players like Skinner, both now and in the future.

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What’s your take on Skinner’s production so far for the Buffalo Sabres? Are you confident the Swords will re-sign the winger for next season? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.