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Report: Sabres to Buyout Jeff Skinner

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Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabres buyout

Chad DeDominicis of Expected Buffalo reported Wednesday that a buyout of the last three years of the contract of Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner is coming. The 32-year-old winger carries Buffalo’s highest cap hit among forwards at $9 million per season. A buyout of Skinner’s contract will save the Sabres $7,555,555 on the cap next season, and $7,333,333 overall. That gives Buffalo over $31 in cap space to work with this offseason.

A Skinner buyout will affect Buffalo’s cap through the 2029-2030 season, as the penalty stretches for double the length of the buyout. Skinner’s remaining cumulative cap hit of $27 million was more than the actual dollars owed, as the Sabres were on the hook for $22 million in base salary.

Jeff Skinner buyout Buffalo Sabres CapFriendly

Jeff Skinner buyout details via CapFriendly

At age 32, the buyout ratio is two-thirds for Skinner, as displayed by CapFriendly. The penalty on the Sabres’ cap will be $2,444,445 per season, hindering the team in tough contract decisions down the road. Luckily, Buffalo has most of its core players locked up long-term, including Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson, Owen Power, and Dylan Cozens.

Waiting another season on a Skinner buyout would benefit the Sabres’ future more, but management is feeling the pressure to turn the team around now. After missing the playoffs for 13 straight seasons, General Manager Kevyn Adams is primed to make some big changes to turn the team into a playoff contender.

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Skinner’s Performance

Skinner’s 2023-2024 season was rocky after starting hot. Things looked to be a repeat of 2022-2023 as he began the season with his familiar linemates, Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch. He trended way down in the second half of the season, losing his first line and first powerplay role.

Jeff Skinner 2023-2024 season grades Buffalo Sabres

Using the Sabres Grades from each game this past season, there is a major downward trend. Skinner couldn’t find a fit on Buffalo’s second and third lines, whether it was Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens, or Casey Mittelstadt at center.

Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabres 1st half grade distribution 2023-2024Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabres 2nd half grade distribution 2023-2024

Splitting the 2023-2024 season in half told two different tales. Skinner recorded five first-half “boom” games, which are an “A-” grade or better. He also had zero “bust” games, with a “D” grade or worse.

The second half was much different, as his average grade shifted to a “C”, which is not what you’d like to see from a $9 million forward. He also had more “bust” games than “boom” games, which made him more detrimental than helpful to the team.

Jeff Skinner Buffalo Sabres grade distribution 2023-2024

Overall, his grade distribution led to a consistency grade of “D-” on the season. Skinner’s first half of the season was enough to rank him ninth among all graded Sabres on the roster, with an average score of “C+”. That’s still not what you’d expect from your highest-paid forward, who should win you games consistently.

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Skinner’s WAR

Still, Skinner ranks fourth of all Sabres forwards in PuckLuck’s WAR (wins above replacement) metric, behind only Thompson, Tuch, and JJ Peterka. This metric adjusts for teammates, quality of opposing players faced, and role, among other things.

Given Skinner averages about 13 minutes per game at even-strength and about two and a half minutes per game on the powerplay, the veteran adds just over three wins over an 82-game season compared to your standard call-up in the same role.

Evolving-Hockey isn’t as generous to Skinner’s situation in their WAR metric, ranking him as the seventh-best forward on the team. They estimate less than two-tenths of a win added above replacement for the season. Their model docks Skinner’s defensive play much heavier than PuckLuck’s, which argues some blame can be attributed to his teammates.

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Skinner’s Next Team

So what’s next for Jeff Skinner? Well, an official announcement from the Sabres could come as soon as Thursday. The buyout window opens 48 hours after the Stanley Cup Final, with Buffalo able to announce the move up until June 30th at 5 p.m. ET.

If a team picks him up on a value contract, Skinner should pay major dividends as an even-strength scorer. He’s coming off seasons of 24, 35, and 33 goals, with 71 of those occurring at even-strength.

His best fit would be with a center who can feed him around the net and work the puck in the zone. If that center is defensively responsible as well, it could offset some of Skinner’s fallacies.

Playoff teams like the Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New York Islanders are looking for cost-effective scoring options on the wing. Since he’ll be reaping the benefits from a bought-out contract over the next six seasons, there’s less of a push for money and more of a push for fit.

With 1,006 regular season games under his belt, it’s time we see what playoff Jeff Skinner looks like.