BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The trade to the Buffalo Sabres happened so suddenly, forward Jeff Skinner hasn’t had time to think about his contract status.
For now, Skinner is focused on becoming acclimated to Buffalo and his new teammates, rather than what might be in store for the three-time 30-goal-scorer once the final year of his contract expires next summer and he’s eligible to become an unrestricted free agent.
”Obviously, the last 24 to 48 hours have been pretty busy, and just trying to sort of get through everything that’s going on,” Skinner said during a conference call Friday, a day after the Carolina Hurricanes traded him to Buffalo.
”Honestly, I’m just excited to start the season,” he added. ”That’s what my focus is and where my focus is going to be for the next little while.”
In waiving his no-trade clause to approve the deal, Skinner agreed to swap one rebuilding team for another. While the Hurricanes’ nine-year playoff drought is the NHL’s longest active streak, the Sabres aren’t far behind at seven.
What excites Skinner is the opportunity to get a fresh start by playing with Buffalo’s young core, which includes center Jack Eichel and defenseman Rasmus Dahlin, the first player selected in the draft in June.
”I think first and foremost, the young group of players they have: the core is exciting,” Skinner said. ”I’m excited to join those guys and be a piece of the puzzle.”
Buffalo gave up prospect forward Cliff Pu and three draft picks, including a 2019 second-round selection, to acquire the eighth-year player and 2011 NHL rookie of the year.
The 26-year-old becomes the latest addition in general manager Jason Botterill’s offseason overhaul to reshape a team that finished last for the third time in five years.
Skinner finished second among the Hurricanes with 24 goals, and fourth with 49 points in 82 games last season. He struggled defensively in finishing with a team-worst plus-minus rating of minus-27. Overall, Skinner has 204 goals and 379 points in 579 career games.
He’ll be given a chance to fill a top-line role alongside Eichel. His addition helps offset the production Buffalo lost in trading second-line center Ryan O'Reilly to St. Louis last month.
Botterill said Thursday that it’s too early to begin contract talks just yet.
”Right now, our focus with Jeff is to make his transition into Buffalo as easy as possible for him,” Botterill said. ”We’ll talk about things such as an extension or contract down the road.”
Skinner became expendable on a Carolina team in the midst of a top-to-bottom makeover under new owner Tom Dundon, who declared no player untouchable but 20-year-old forward Sebastian Aho.
Aside from wanting to shake up the Hurricanes’ culture, GM Don Waddell said Skinner’s contract status also played a factor. Waddell had no contract extension talks with Skinner this offseason.
Skinner was aware of the speculation of being on the trade block but wasn’t sure he was going to be moved until being informed of the potential deal early Thursday.
Skinner said he enjoyed his eight seasons with Carolina, where he began playing months after the Hurricanes selected him with the No. 7 pick in the 2010 draft. What disappointed him was the team’s inability to make the playoffs.
”It’s frustrating for sure not sort of reaching your goal,” Skinner said.
”But I think when you look at it, sort of moving forward on that basis, it’s exciting for me,” he added of the move to Buffalo. ”And that’s the way you look at it is that it is going to be a fresh start.”
Skinner said an added bonus to the trade is the opportunity to play closer to his hometown of Toronto, a two-hour drive from Buffalo.
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