Sabres make splash, acquire Jeff Skinner from Hurricanes

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Just a day after it looked like Jeff Skinner would return to the Carolina Hurricanes this season, it is now official that he will not.

Skinner was shipped to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for prospect Cliff Pu and three picks — a second rounder in 2019 and a third and a sixth in 2020.

Hurricanes fans are likely perplexed at the moment (a quick check of Hurricanes Twitter: yep, they’re stunned). Skinner had been the subject of pretty intense trade speculation, but fans are going to be left wanting more in return.

Skinner had a no-move clause in his contract, so the return was likely muted by that, but the return is hardly impressive. You can’t let Skinner walk for free after next season — he’s scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent — but one might wonder what the return would have been at the trade deadline. The Nashville Predators gave up a first-round pick for Ryan Hartman, remember?

It appears the list of teams chasing Skinner was shrinking so Carolina general manager Don Waddell pulled the trigger with Buffalo’s offer.

Skinner, a Calder Trophy winner, has been one of the best players in the NHL over the past eight season, scoring 204 goals (20th most during that span), including 154 at even strength, tied for 10th.

Last season, he scored 24 times and added 25 assists in 82 games. It was his sixth season posting 20 or more goals and third straight.

The 26-year-old has one year left on a six-year deal that’s paying him $5.725 million annually.

The No. 7 pick in 2010 immediately makes the Sabres a better team offensively. Sure, that’s not that hard given they were the only team not to hit the 200-goal plateau last season, but alas, the trade puts Buffalo in a better spot regardless — they were the worst team in the NHL last season by a good margin.

Skinner’s addition comes after the Sabres picked up Tage Thompson, Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund in the trade for Ryan O’Reilly and they also added Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick after the Pittsburgh Penguins went looking to shed some cap space earlier this summer. The team also drafted defenseman Rasmus Dahlin first overall, have Casey Mittelstadt ready to go and signed Carter Hutton to be their starting goaltender this coming season.

The trade helps soften the loss of O’Reilly for the Sabres, who didn’t have to give up any of their three first-round picks in 2019.

In Pu, the Hurricanes get a prospect that split time with two teams in the Ontario Hockey League last season, scoring 29 goals and adding 55 helpers in 65 games.

The Hurricane’s continue their transformation with the Skinner trade. They shipped out Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm to Calgary earlier this summer for Dougie Hamilton, signed Calvin De Haan, and have completely revamped their front office with the hiring of Rod Brind’Amour as head coach and Waddell as GM following the departure of Bill Peters and the firing of Ron Francis.

Owner Tom Dundon isn’t afraid to shake things up. Time will tell if his moves find the Hurricanes in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The move leaves the Hurricanes with $18,5 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, while the Sabres have nearly $6.5 million.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck