Sunday Speculation: Skinner's Next Contract

February 28, 2012; Raleigh, NC, USA; Carolina Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner (53) against the Nashville Predators at the RBC center. The Hurricanes defeated the Predators 4-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

So far this summer there has been plenty of speculation as to what the Canes should do regarding their roster for next season and beyond. We have heard from Jim Rutherford that the Canes might have some additional financial resources to use this summer to acquire a player that is deemed the "right fit". Certain hockey analysts have suggested that the Canes are looking at some top-tier UFA's and are expected to make pitches to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. There have also been rumors abound that the Penguins could be looking at moving Jordan Staal and Carolina would be a likely destination. We have even read comments on Canes Country as to which players the Canes should look at acquiring and why. But all of these numbers revolve around one thing: money. And generally the Canes have been a pretty low budget team.

If the Hurricanes are looking to add a top level player or players, they are going to have to spend some money and how is that going to effect us from resigning one of our "stars"? Jeff Skinner will be entering the final year of his entry-level contract this season and it is pretty certain that he is in for a nice raise. A 30 goal season, an All-Star selection, and a Calder Memorial Trophy are all nice talking points when it come to signing a contract. But if the Canes spend $10 to $15 million on "new" players this summer, how much is going to be left for Jeff? So I'm asking you, what do you think Jeff Skinner's next contract is going to look like in regards to length and amount? Is it going to be a typical JR short-term contract or one that will take him into his prime? Is it going to be relatively affordable contract or is it going to be on the higher side? And when should JR get this deal done, this summer or wait until next offseason?

So what I have done is try to come up with some comparable players and what their contracts look like. I have broken them down into 3 different categories: Calder Trophy winners, PPG Comparable players, and players that I feel are somewhat comparable to Skinner's game. Please take a look at my comparisons and let me know what you think. If you disagree with a comparison or have one that I left out, let me know. Also try to determine what the terms of Skinner's next contract will be and why.

Previous Calder Trophy Winners

I will start off with the contact comparisons of the 5 previous Calder Memorial Trophy winners. There are obviously 5 players and their contracts average: 6.4 Years, $48.66 Million for a per Season average of $7.60 Million.

Patrick Kane - 5 Years, $31.5 Million ($6.3 Million per Season) - Kane actually shares some similarities with Skinner. Both players are on the smaller side, are creative with the puck on their stick, and have the ability to score from anywhere on the ice. But while Kane is more of a perimeter player, Skinner does some of his best work down low. Kane is probably a little more playmaker than Jeff, but Skinner has that ability. Kane has put up more points than Skinner, but that could be a direct result of being on the much more talented team.

Evgeni Malkin - 5 Years, $43.5 Million ($8.7 Million per Season) - This is really not a fair comparison. Malkin is arguably one of the 3 to 5 best players in the world. He is a beast and had two 100 point seasons while still on his entry-level contract. The NHL was also a little different when Malkin signed this contract.

Steve Mason - 2 Years, $5.8 Million ($2.9 Million per Season) - This is another difficult comparison. First off, Mason is a goaltender and we all know goaltending is a completely different monster than a forward. Second, Mason only had 1 really good year and the rest have been average at best. I would suspect Skinner's new deal would be more than Mason's.

Tyler Myers - 7 Years, $38.5 Million ($5.5 Million per Season) - This contract is more along the line of some of the more recent NHL deals we have seen. It's front loaded ($12 Million next season) and then tapers off toward the end ($3 Million the last year of the contract). This is the type of deal that JR normally wouldn't make and I don't see him doing it with Skinner either. Also factor in that Myers is a massive defenseman and this becomes a tough comparable.

Alex Ovechkin - 13 Years, $124 Million ($9.538 Million per Season) - I could just say, see Malkin. The NHL was a little different when Ovechkin signed this deal. He is also (or at least was) considered one of the top 5 players in the world. There is no way that JR would offer anybody this length or dollar amount.

PPG Comparable Players

Next we'll look at the Point Per Game (PPG) Comparable players. Jeff Skinner has 51 goals, 56 assists for 107 points in 146 games over his 2 year NHL career for a 0.73 PPG average. For comparison, I look at all the players that averaged 0.74 PPG to 0.72 PPG over the past 2 season (only 1 season for Jagr). There are 12 players in this group and their contracts average: 4.5 Years, $22.12 Million for a per Season average of $4.92 Million.

Matt Moulson - 3 Years, $9.4 Million ($3.133 Million per Season) - While Moulson has put up some very good numbers the past 2 seasons, Skinner is the superior player. Moulson does a great job of capitalizing on his chances, but isn't the best a creating chances for himself or others. Skinner can create and dominate more than Moulson.

Jeff Carter - 11 Years, $58 Million ($5.272 Million per Season) - Carter is a dynamic scorer and a pretty solid overall player. While Carter has had a rough season, I would say he is above Skinner right now, but this could be a fair comparison even though their games differ. One similarity they share, at least at this point, is that both are shoot-first players and could do a little more to set up their teammates.

Jaromir Jagr - 1 Year, $3.3 Million - Not a great comparison, but Skinner and Jagr share some similarities. They both have strong lower bodies, are strong offensive players, can perform magic with the puck, and are not particularly strong defensively. Jagr was one of the better players of all time and I'm not sure Skinner is up there, but at this point in Jagr's career, other than size they play a lot alike.

Chris Kunitz - 2 Years, $7.45 Million ($3.725 Million per Season) - Kunitz and Skinner have almost identical size, but then things start drifting apart. Kunitz is more of a physical player, but doesn't have the offensive capabilities of Skinner. Kunitz is a very good player, but you have to wonder if some of his production is a result of playing with highly talented teammates.

David Perron - 2 Years, $4.3 Million ($2.15 Million per Season) - Perron is another player of similar stature. Both he and Skinner are extremely skilled and very good with the puck. Perron is a little feistier and more of a playmaker, but not as strong as Skinner and doesn't have his upside. Both players have experienced a concussion that could have some effect on their careers.

Shane Doan - 5 Years, $22.75 Million ($4.55 Million per Season) - Doan is a very talented player, but his strength is his grittiness. He's a solid two-way player who is physical, but he can also put up points. Skinner is definitely more offense first and will probably never be the physical force Doan is, due to his size. The one thing they do share is the way both players are able to connect with their fans, wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

Tomas Fleischmann - 4 Years, $18 Million ($4.5 Million per Season) - One area where Fleischmann resembles Skinner is his shooting ability. Both players can pick and hit their spots with the best of them. Both are extremely fluid with the puck and neither is particularly strong in the defensive zone. They actually share a lot, but look differently accomplishing the same task. Skinner has the higher ceiling.

Dany Heatley - 6 Years, $45 Million ($7.5 Million per Season) - Heatley & Skinner are both scorers, but do it in different ways. Heatley has the size to play down low, Skinner does so out of will. Heatley is strong in the slot, Skinner is most effective moving all around. Heatley also seems to be declining, while Skinner is just getting started. I would say that Heatley's contract is overpriced, but after two 50 goal campaigns plus a 40 goal season, it seemed like a good deal at the time.

Johan Franzen - 11 Years, $43.5 Million ($3.954 Million per Season) - The Mule is pretty much as described. He's a big, powerful forward with scoring ability. He's also pretty solid defensively and is a good puckhandler. He's not much of a passer and while very good, I don't think he will ever be an elite player. While Skinner & Franzen have similar point production, they really are very different players. I don't know if this is a good contract comparison because of the style of players and the length of Franzen's contract.

Paul Stastny - 5 Years, $33 Million ($6.6 Million per Season) - Stastny and Skinner are both offensive players, but they tend to excel in different areas. Skinner is a scorer and an amazing skater. Stastny is a playmaker and a upper-end guy that plays with some grit. I really believe these two would actually be good linemates, they would actually compliment each other pretty well. I think Stastny's contract is a little overpriced, but he is a very solid top 6 player.

Drew Stafford - 4 Years, $16 Million ($4 Million per Season) - Stafford is a very solid player that plays a good two-way game. He doesn't have Skinner's offensive abilities or potential, but he is also willing to do work in the dirty areas. Stafford is a pretty consistent 50+ point player, but is never going to be the 70+ point player that Skinner could become. At this point in their careers, they are somewhat comparable players.

Teddy Purcell - 2 Years, $4.725 Million ($2.362 Million per Season) - Purcell is a player that finally seems to be coming into his own. His last two seasons have been very good and he should continue to get better. But he is nowhere near the talent that Skinner is. Skinner can be a difference-maker, while Purcell (still a very good player) is more of a complimentary player. Both should have amazing careers, but Skinner has star written all over him.

Similar Style Players

These are players that I believe have similar games to young Skinner. Maybe not every aspect of their game corresponds, but a big part does or multiple parts do. Some of these comparisons might be hard for some to swallow, but I think they offer a good representation of good players that share similar abilities to Skinner. There are 9 players in this group and their contracts average: 4.3 Years, $23.19 Million for a per Season average of $5.39 Million.

Marian Gaborik - 5 Years, $37.5 Million ($7.5 Million per Season) - You might not see the comparison here, but I think there a little closer than you might think. Both guys are terrific scorers with a shoot-first mindset. They are great one-on-one players and can pick their spots. Both also are not very good in their own zone. I really would not be surprised to see Skinner's career path follow along the same line as Gaborik, minus all the nagging injuries.

Joe Pavelski - 4 Years, $16 Million ($4 Million per Season) - Pavelski & Skinner share many things. They are roughly the same size, but ooze offensive talent, and both players seem to come up big even the game is on the line. Both players can also play the wing or the center position, but Pavelski is the better faceoff man so far. Pavelski is a smart player that is more of a playmaker. Skinner is the better skater and has the higher upside.

Jason Pominville - 5 Years, $26.5 Million ($5.3 Million per Season) - Pominville is a smaller player that uses his creativity to prosper. He's a good skater and can pretty much do it all. He can score, setup plays, and plays well in the defensive zone. He is a solid all-around player. Skinner is the stronger player, is much more fearless, and has more talent. But Pominville is a very good player that makes his team better. If Skinner can emulate some of Pominville's skills, his talent will take him to another level.

Danny Briere - 8 Years, $52 Million ($6.5 Million per Season) - Briere and Skinner both have unbelievable creativity. There can score from anywhere on the ice and can thread passes through the tiniest holes. Both players have an amazing set of hands and can perform surgery with their sticks. But both players are also small and can get taken out of plays due to their size. Skinner is built a little more solidly than Briere, but Briere's experience has taught him how to maximize his strengths and try to avoid his weaknesses. Both guys are not very good defensively and are a little on the streaky side.

Logan Couture - 2 Years, $5.75 Million ($2.875 Million per Season) - Couture and Skinner have a connection due to their fight for the Calder Trophy in 10/11. Both players are very smart and have tremendous offensive games. Couture is more of a two-way player, but he is also older. While they share a lot of similarities, they look like complete different players. Skinner is more compact and is more shifty on skates. Couture is more lanky and plays a little more responsible. Skinner has and can continue to exceed Couture, but Couture is an extremely hard-worker.

Radim Vrbata - 3 Years, $9 Million ($3 Million per Season) - Vrbata is definitely not on the same level as Skinner, at least the same level that Skinner can get to. But they do have some similarities in their game. Both player are extremely skilled scorers that use their skating abilities to take advantage of defenders. Vrbata seems to work best in certain systems while Skinner is best at creating on the fly. There is nice age difference between the two and quite a difference in their potential. At the present time, they are comparable players, but if Vrbata is how Skinner ends up, his career would be disappointing.

Mike Cammalleri - 5 Years, $30 Million ($6 Million per Season) - There's actually a player smaller than Skinner. Cammalleri is a very tiny guy with a ton of skill, but is inconsistent. With the puck, he can pretty much do it all. He can pick his spots, he can distribute, and he is a smart player. But again, he goes through stretches of being almost invisible. He can score 40 goals or 20 goals in a season, a lot is up to his attitude. Skinner shares Cammalleri's skill, but Skinner has a better motor. Skinner doesn't vanish as much as Cammalleri and that's why he will most likely end up the much better player.

Simon Gagne - 2 Years, $7 Million ($3.5 Million per Season) - This was a comparison that I almost didn't make. But when healthy, Gagne is one hell of a player. He uses his skating ability and mind to take advantage of everyone else on the ice and that reminds me of Skinner. He can score, can pass, and actually is a complete two-way player. The problem with Gagne experienced a concussion and hasn't really been the same since. He has experienced a lot of nagging injuries over his career and it MIGHT be something we experience with Skinner as time goes on. Skinner is constantly putting himself in areas where he takes a beating and eventually his body is going to not recover so fast.

Brian Gionta - 5 Years, $25 Million ($5 Million per Season) - Here is another player that is smaller than Skinner, but he shares Skinner's fearlessness. He is a clever player and does some amazing things around the net, similar to Skinner. Gionta uses his speed to his advantage, while Skinner uses his shiftiness. Skinner's body should allow him to withstand the pounding a little more than Gionta and should result in a more consistent career. But if you really examine these two players, I think you'll see a lot of things alike.

In conclusion, Jeff Skinner's next contract is going to have a huge impact on the Carolina Hurricanes. I believe that JR needs to determine what it is going to take now, so that he knows how much money he has available for free agents or trades this summer. While I would love to get Parise, Suter, and Jordan Staal, the dollars just do not work out with Skinner due a big raise next summer. If I were the GM, I would look at some of these players' contracts to determine the best offer for Jeff. My thoughts are 3 Years, $12.75 Million ($4.25 Million per Season). This would give Skinner a nice, big raise while at the same time still being affordable through his RFA years. His contract would expire the same year as Eric Staal's, so the Canes could determine at that time if Skinner was due even a larger raise. Also at the same time, either Staal would go to another team or likely see his salary amount cut. We would also still have Skinner with 1 RFA year left, but with arbitration rights.

But you guys & gals take a look at some of the comparable players and let me know what you believe Skinner deserves and what he will ultimately get with his next contract.

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