Buffalo Sabres: Issues remain in Jeff Skinner contract negotiations

The Buffalo Sabres would like to offer a contract extension to Jeff Skinner as soon as possible, but aspects of any potential deal still remain unresolved.

It seems fair to predict at this point that the Buffalo Sabres aren’t going to make the playoffs. With this in mind, fans must look for potential positives which can point towards a better tomorrow.

This includes hoping that the Sabres can sign Jeff Skinner to a contract extension. Apparently both sides would like to have a long-term association, but as always with the Swords, it is rarely a straight-forward or easy path to their desired destination.

In this respect, the latest news indicates that while contract talks are ongoing, there is still a lot to be resolved. As per Sportsnet‘s Elliotte Friedman, the length of any potential deal remains an issue and he’s not so sure if Skinner will stay in Buffalo:

“The closer you get (to free agency) the more you wonder if it’s going to happen. I’ve heard the issue is term. It would seem to make sense in the fact that it’s not done yet, but when you’re going like this, you kind of wonder if it’s any guarantee that he’ll be staying.”

TSN‘s Bob McKenzie also commented on contract negotiations, and indicated the annual average salary is another issue. He believes Skinner wants around $9 million per season, while the Sabres would be more comfortable paying $8 million.

Given the 26-year-old’s current annual cap hit of $5.725 million, he’s set for a substantial pay rise regardless. However, as per Friedman’s comments about getting closer to free agency, he may decide to go down this route to put himself in the best possible financial position, which can only be helped if rival teams get into a bidding war for him.

Given the season Skinner has had, fans may be tempted to say the team should pay him whatever he wants. Certainly he’s had a fantastic campaign and is on course for career-highs in goals, overall points, shooting percentage and faceoff win percentage.

However, it has to at least be noted that the two-time All-Star has fallen off the pace recently. He has just one point — an assist — in seven games during March.

Of course, you can argue this has coincided with the team’s overall fall from grace, with just three points from those seven same games. Regardless, the Sabres have to consider if Skinner’s play earlier this season would effectively be the norm or an exception, if they commit long-term to him?

In fairness to the 2010 seventh overall draft pick, he has essentially been good for 50 points per season ever since he entered the NHL. (The 24 points he scored in 2012-13 came during a strike-shortened season.) With this in mind, the Sabres, should do what they can to re-sign him.

Buffalo has improved from last season, no matter how disappointed fans will be about missing the playoffs for an eighth consecutive time. But if they are to continue improving, they need players like Skinner to stick around.

We’re not suggesting the Sabres should break the bank to sign the winger to a contract extension. However, they do need to take somewhat of a gamble and have faith in him helping them move towards a better tomorrow.

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Do you predict Skinner will sign a contract extension with the Buffalo Sabres, or go to free agency? Assuming he does stay, what do you believe would be a fair deal for him? Let us know in the comments section below.

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