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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

Trocheck hasn’t missed a beat for Panthers

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Vincent Trocheck wasn’t even supposed to be playing for the Florida Panthers this soon, let alone seemingly jumping right back to full-strength, as if his ankle was never fractured.

Heading into Friday, the Panthers were on a seven-game losing streak, facing a weekend that sure looked like it would set the stage for one or two additional losses.

Instead, the Panthers now have back-to-back wins, and they’ve done so against two legitimate NHL contenders.

On Friday, the Panthers beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-1. Trocheck assisted on Mike Matheson‘s game-winning goal, posted highly impressive possession stats, three shots on goal, and seven (!) hits.

That would have already been a highly impressive effort for a player coming off a pretty traumatic injury, but Trocheck was arguably even better during Saturday’s 4-2 win against the Nashville Predators.

While his fancy stats were a little choppier, Trocheck showed up on the scoreboard even more, generating a goal and an assist. He looked awfully spry on that goal, by the way:

That breakaway score ended up being the game-winner, actually.

After generating three points in his two games back, Trocheck now has 17 points in 20 games this season.

Now, the Panthers points as a team? They’re now at 46 points in 47 games played, leaving them at least 12 points behind the Penguins (who have 58 points, and could add more against the Golden Knights during a Saturday game that’s in progress). To put things mildly, the odds are stacked high against the Panthers for a credible push toward a berth in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Then again, the odds were also against Trocheck returning as soon as mid-January, and he’s instead making a big impact for Florida.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Ref pushing Blues’ Barbashev gives us some comic relief

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In these trying times, sometimes you just need to see a zany mishap where a hockey player loses a skate blade, and hilarity ensues.

OK, that might be highly specific, but such bits of bad luck usually do provide some real comedy. Even by those standards, this was some good stuff, as Blues forward Ivan Barbashev got a boost from an on-ice official, and it was quite a boost down the ice.

You can watch that moment in the video above this post’s headline, and likely have a nice chuckle.

The Blues ended up beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 on Saturday, so Barbashev & Co. can share a bigger laugh after the game.

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Speaking of comic relief and needing a push, enjoy the Zamboni from Saturday’s Oilers game:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins’ Rask helped off ice after huge collision

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Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask needed help off of the ice – and took quite a while to leave the ice – after a frightening collision with New York Rangers forward Filip Chytil.

Moments after this post went up on Saturday, the Bruins provided an unsettling – if, sadly, not surprising – update that Rask suffered a concussion and will not return to the game.

You can see the collision (and get an idea of how long it took Rask to leave the ice) in the video above this post’s headline.

This is the Bruins’ final game before the All-Star break, and they won’t play again until they host the Winnipeg Jets in Boston on Jan. 29, so at least there isn’t much pressure for Rask to rush back to action too soon.

Rask began the game tied with Tiny Thompson at 252 wins, the most in Bruins’ franchise history.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Erik Karlsson misses Sharks game on Saturday

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Considering how much Erik Karlsson has been heating up along with the San Jose Sharks lately, it would have been fun to see him skate against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team that once tried to acquire him.

That’s not happening on Saturday, as Karlsson was a late scratch for the game.

The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz reports that Karlsson was “limping noticeably” and favoring his left side following the Sharks’ 6-3 loss to the Coyotes on Wednesday. Kurz also reports that Karlsson hasn’t participated in practice or pregame skates for about a week.

Paul Gackle of the Mercury News points out that Karlsson was held out for most of the third period of Tuesday’s 5-2 win against the Penguins for “precautionary reasons,” yet Sharks coach Peter DeBoer indicated that the 28-year-old was expected to play on Saturday. Instead, Karlsson must have determined that he wasn’t good to go after skating a bit during warm-ups.

Saturday’s game against the Lightning marks the second of a four-game road trip. The Sharks are set to play against the Panthers in Florida on Monday (Jan. 21) and the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday (Jan. 22), then they’ll be off for the All-Star break.

Karlsson was one of the Sharks’ three selections to the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, but we’ll see if what seems like a lower-body injury ends up sidelining him from the event. Either way, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Swede miss at least one of the Sharks’ remaining two games before the break, considering that it’s a back-to-back set.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is also out with an injury, so the Sharks are limping – can Sharks limp? – a bit into that run of off time.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.