Jeff Skinner acquisition continues great summer for Sabres

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It’s been a real good summer for the Buffalo Sabres. Drafting Rasmus Dahlin; adding a goaltender in Carter Hutton who could be the answer in goal; picking up speedy Connor Sheary who needed a change of scenery; sending Ryan O’Reilly and his cap hit to the St. Louis Blues for a package that included a good prospect and a first-round pick; and now acquiring a goal scoring winger without giving up any of your three 2019 first rounders.

In a league where a team, with the right moves and everything clicking, can go from bottom of the barrel to playoff team in one year, Sabres fans should certainly be excited about the direction the franchise. After so many seasons to forget about, general manager Jason Botterill has set them up for brighter days.

“The best part of our sport right now is the parity that’s in the National Hockey League,” Botterill said on a conference call with reporters Thursday night. “You always have an opportunity at the start of the year. We’ve made a quite a few adjustments to our team and we’re excited about those changes and excited about some of our young players coming into our group…

“We’re excited about the speed that we’ve added to our group. We’re excited about the youth that we’ve added to our group. We’ve always talked about it. You’re trying to find that balance of bringing in leadership, bringing in players who know how to have had success in the National Hockey League while still looking at the future. That’s what excited us about this acquisition.”

So, yeah, Botterill’s excited, too.

[Sabres make splash, acquire Jeff Skinner from Hurricanes]

After dealing with concussion issues earlier in his career, Skinner has rebounded back into the form of the player that showed promise in his rookie year, a season that earned him the Calder Trophy. He scored 24 times last season and 37 the year before. Fifty of those 61 goals over the last two seasons came at even strength, an area Buffalo needs help. The Sabres have finished 30th, 28th, 28th, and 29th in 5-on-5 scoring over the last four seasons, respectively.

The Hurricanes are getting prospect Cliff Pu and a 2019 second rounder, and a third and a sixth in 2020. That’s some good dealing by Botterill. And depending on how this season goes, or even next off-season, he has those three first rounders he can use as potential trait bait, if needed.

Botterill said he wasn’t sure yet if Skinner would play alongside Jack Eichel or Casey Mittelstadt, but it’s good to have options, something head coach Phil Housley is probably happy about.

The only risk in the deal for the Sabres is that Skinner is entering the final year of his deal and can become an unrestricted free agent next summer. But, hey, if it doesn’t work out then a deadline deal can be made. Botterill was pleased that Skinner was open to coming to Buffalo as he only wants to bring players who want to be there. As for extension talks, they want to let him settle into his new situation before moving forward.

Hurricanes GM Don Waddell had been shopping Skinner for a while, but he said Thursday night he didn’t feel as if the value in a return was there for the 26-year-old forward. Also hindering things was the fact that Skinner had a full no-move clause, able to veto any potential deal.

”Buffalo was a team that was always high on his list,” Waddell said. “We felt that the deal we could make with Buffalo is one we could accept and continue to move forward.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.