Jeff Skinner just finished a career-best season. ©2019, Hickling Images

Report: Sabres close to re-signing Jeff Skinner to huge long-term contract

The Buffalo Sabres are close to re-signing 40-goal scorer Jeff Skinner to an eight-year contact with an average annual value of around $9 million, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

Update: The Sabres announced tonight Skinner has signed an eight-year, $72 million contract.

As a 27-year-old fresh off a career season and just weeks away from becoming an unrestricted free agent, the talented winger possesses plenty of leverage.

The Sabres, one of the NHL’s laughingstocks, desperately need high-end talent, so they will likely award the second-largest contract in franchise history to retain their leading goal scorer.

Only Sabres captain Jack Eichel, who showcased dynamic chemistry at times as Skinner’s center most of the 2018-19 season, has earned a bigger contract. Eichel just finished the first year of an eight-year, $80 million contract.

Letting Skinner walk in free agency would be a disaster for the Sabres, who own an eight-year playoff drought, the NHL’s longest.

Sabres general manager Jason Botterill acquired Skinner from the Carolina Hurricanes on Aug. 2 for forward prospect Cliff Pu and three draft picks.

While the Sabres fell apart late in 2018-19, Skinner provided an immediate impact, helping them rattle off 10 straight wins in November and surge to the top of the league.

Skinner scored 14 goals in his first 19 games, quickly becoming a fan favorite. Even as the Sabres started stumbling, he kept producing.

The former Calder Trophy winner scored twice Feb. 15 – his 35th and 36th tallies in his 59th game – putting him on a 52-goal pace. At that point, he hadn’t gone more than four straight games without scoring a goal.

Then Skinner experienced his first slump of the season. He endured a 13-game goal drought and mustered just one during a 22-contest stretch.

Still, Skinner scored three times in the final three games, including twice in the season finale, to hit the 40-goal mark for the first time in his nine-year career.

The Sabres hadn’t had a 40-goal scorer since Thomas Vanek in 2008-09.

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