The Buffalo Sabres pulled off a rare August trade early tonight, acquiring three-time 30-goal scorer Jeff Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward prospect Cliff Pu, a second-round pick in 2019 and third- and sixth-round selections in 2020.
The trade for Skinner, who’s entering the final season of his contract, gives the Sabres another proven scorer at wing. The Sabres, the NHL’s lowest-scoring team last season, needed to replace the offense they lost when they traded center Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues on July 1.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Skinner, 26, has compiled 204 goals and 379 points in 579 career NHL games, the 20th-most scores in that span. His 159 even-strength scores rank 10th over that time.
General manager Don Waddell said on a conference call Skinner and the Hurricanes agreed a trade would be best for the 2010-11 Calder Trophy winner following last season.
The Sabres, Waddell said, ranked high on Skinner’s list of potential destinations. Skinner, a Toronto native, had a no-movement clause and wanted to be closer to home, Waddell said.
When the Sabres acquired Conor Sheary on June 26, it was assumed the youngster would be center Jack Eichel’s left wing next season. But that coveted spot might belong to Skinner now.
At times throughout his eight-year career, Skinner has been one of the NHL’s most lethal goal scorers. He roared into the league just months after Carolina drafted him seventh overall, compiling 31 goals and 63 points in 2010-11.
His production has dipped and swelled throughout his career. He scored a full-season low 18 times in 2014-15. He rebounded with a 28-goal campaign, then enjoyed a career-best season in 2016-17, scoring 37 goals.
Last season, Skinner scored 24 times and had a wretched minus-27, one of the league’s worst ratings.
Still, Skinner, who has a $5.725 million cap hit, possesses plenty of upside. He received the change of scenery he wanted, has just one year left until hitting unrestricted free agency and will likely have Eichel feeding him the puck.
If Skinner doesn’t fit well or the Sabres want to dish him, he could be a coveted asset before the trade deadline. They could recoup some of what they dealt to acquire him.
But considering Skinner’s scoring prowess and age, they gave up very little for him.
Pu, a third-round pick in 2016, morphed into a strong prospect and could have a future in the NHL. Yes, the Sabres traded a second-rounder, but they could have three first-rounders in 2019 if conditions are met.