While extension discussions have been going on throughout the season, there still isn’t a new deal in place between the Sabres and winger Jeff Skinner. In an appearance on Sportsnet 590 (audio link), Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman noted that the issue right now appears to be the term of the deal that the 26-year old is seeking.
The pending UFA got off to a torrid start to the season but has slowed down considerably since then and has just six goals over his last 25 games. However, he still has a good chance to reach the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career which would position him to be potentially the top scorer to hit the open market. (San Jose’s Joe Pavelski is also in the mix for the goal-scoring lead among potential free agents.)
Meanwhile, TSN’s Bob McKenzie weighed in on the financial side of talks while appearing on TSN 690 (audio link). He suggested that the asking price could be in the $9MM per year range which would represent a significant jump on his current AAV of $5.725MM.
However, despite how well Skinner has played alongside Jack Eichel, that type of financial commitment carries considerable risk given that there’s a chance he won’t even reach the 70-point mark; he’s at 58 through 70 games while his career high is 63. That’s a lot to commit for someone that doesn’t have a lengthy track record of being an elite scorer.
With that in mind, McKenzie believes Buffalo is looking for something closer to $8MM per season. That would still be a big jump but would put him a level below the recent deal that Mark Stone signed with Vegas (eight years, $9.5MM AAV) and would give them a little bit more cap flexibility with Eichel ($10MM) already on the books and a potentially big deal for rookie blueliner Rasmus Dahlin on the horizon in two years.
By all accounts, there doesn’t appear to be any animosity between the two sides as the discussions have been held close to the vest. However, the longer Skinner goes without a deal, the temptation to wait a little longer to see what’s out there on the open market has to increase. Accordingly, expect this to remain at or near the top of GM Jason Botterill’s to-do list over the next few months.