If you’re a Carolina Hurricanes fan and you haven’t made the bizarre decision to spend the past couple months living under a rock, odds are you’ve heard the rumors that the team’s longest-tenured skater will be playing elsewhere next season.
The trade talk all over hockey media around Jeff Skinner has, understandably, upset many Canes fans. Skinner is probably the team’s best natural goal scorer, and is in the top 20 in goals scored in the league since 2016-17. Brett did a great job laying out the reasons against trading Skinner here.
However, life would be boring if we all agreed on everything, and while there are many reasons the Canes should keep Skinner, there are also several for moving him. Let’s take a look at them.
Contract status- The number one reason to move him, and probably the biggest reason Skinner is reportedly being shopped, is that he has one year left on his deal. Skinner will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019 and as a 26-year-old player with three 30 goal seasons on his deal, would have no shortage of suitors on the open market.
The Canes can sign Skinner to an extension on this July 1, and need to figure out where he stands as soon as possible. Skinner is the type of player where if you can’t get him to sign a long-term extension, you should try to get as much value as you can for him. That value may be higher now, when a team could get a full season and playoffs from him, not just a few-month rental experience next spring.
And here’s the thing about signing an extension from Skinner’s point of view: why would he? Since being drafted seventh overall in 2010, No. 53 has known nothing but losing. Other than when the Canes missed by two points in his Calder Trophy season in 2010-11, Skinner has not sniffed the postseason.
It would be hard to blame him for being ready to move on to somewhere he has a better chance at success, and if that’s the case, the Canes need to strike when they can get some value for him. Skinner is absolutely not a player you can risk losing for nothing, or getting a lesser return for at next year’s trade deadline.
Bidding war?- One of the main arguments against trading Skinner has been Bob McKenzie of TSN’s suggestion that the Canes may get a lesser return for him. I don’t buy that at all. We know the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings and Florida Panthers are among the interested parties, and as we get closer to the draft, that group should continue to grow. More teams interested in Skinner’s services means better offers, and ones general manager Don Waddell and co., with a reported asking price of a first-round pick and prospect, can pick and choose from.
While Skinner does have a no-movement clause, you have to figure all of Florida, Edmonton and Los Angeles are decent destinations right now, and if some big market teams enter the mix, he should have some more places he’d say yes to. If the Canes can land their price and get a first rounder and a good prospect or even young, NHL-ready forward for a player with a year left on his deal, you have to jump on it. And with at least three teams in the mix, Waddell should have a fairly strong negotiating position.
Time to move on- As mentioned at the start, Skinner is the Canes’ longest-tenured player not named Cam Ward, and has been here for eight years of the nine-season playoff drought that has stretched to the longest active in the NHL. Now, that’s by no means Skinner’s fault, and indeed the Canes would have lost a major bright spot without Skinner for those eight years. However, it may be time for a change of scenery for both parties.
Skinner could benefit from a fresh start elsewhere, with a chance to play playoff hockey for the first time in his career. That’s not to say he couldn’t get that chance in Carolina if the Canes can finally get some decent goaltending tin 2018-19, but eight years of being among the also-rans may have him ready to move on.
And for the Canes, as Waddell, Rod Brind’Amour and Tom Dundon try to change the culture in Carolina, it may be a good move to move on from a mainstay and shake up the core. As the team transitions to a young lineup led up front by rising star Sebastian Aho, top prospect (for now) Martin Necas and soon to be No. 2 pick Andrei Svechnikov, it may simply be time to turn the page. While moving on from a key contributor is never easy, in this case it may benefit the Hurricanes.