After eight years in Carolina, Jeff Skinner, the face of the post-Stanley Cup Hurricanes, will no longer don the red and black.
Skinner was acquired by the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday in a deal that shipped forward Cliff Pu, a second-round pick in 2019, and third- and sixth-round picks in 2020.
Skinner has one year left on his six-year, $34.35 million deal with Carolina that included a no-trade clause which he waived to facilitate the deal. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent for the 2019-2020 season, meaning teams viewed him as a rental more than as a controllable option.
The forward scored 49 points last season after posting a career-high 63 points in the 2016-2017 season, which tied his 2010-2011 rookie season point total that propelled him to a Calder Trophy.
General manager Don Waddell said that while losing Skinner’s scoring production is detrimental, they have a multitude of options to replace it essentially by committee.
“You’re always concerned about goals but I’m more worried about winning,” Waddell said. “With [Martin] Necas coming over this year, getting the No. 2 pick probably gave us a little bit more of a surplus of young players with [Andrei] Svechnikov. The trade we made with Calgary, we picked up Micheal Ferland, who had 20 goals last year. Dougie Hamilton had 17.”
Skinner had not made the playoffs in eight seasons in Carolina, and Waddell, who said he had worked on this deal for longer than any other player he has ever traded, hinted that his departure was more about a locker room shakeup than any specific criticism of his performance. He also noted that Skinner’s no-trade clause limited the market.
“I think we felt, culturally, that we needed to make some changes,” Waddell said. “Saying that, I always say that you don’t make a change just for the sake of making a change, because that usually doesn’t work out for you. When you make changes, they have to be in the mindset that you’re helping yourself moving forward.”
Skinner, the seventh overall pick by Carolina in the 2010 NHL Draft, is the fifth-highest goal scorer in franchise history (205) and seventh on the all-time points leaderboard for Carolina (379). He’s also skated more minutes on the ice for the Hurricanes (9903) than ex-general manager and former Stanley Cup winner Ron Francis (9563).
Reports were that the trade market had slowed down on both Skinner and Justin Faulk in the past week, but as of yesterday, News and Observer columnist Luke DeCock said he’d heard that there “may be movement” within a short period of time.
Funny how this always works. Since posting this column, appears the landscape may have changed and there may be some movement in the next few days after all. Of course, I've heard that before... https://t.co/pgHgjfvjWb— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) August 1, 2018
Pu, a third-round pick by the Sabres in 2016, scored 84 points in 65 games last season in the OHL.
Attached is the press release from the Hurricanes.
RALEIGH, NC - Don Waddell, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has acquired forward Cliff Pu, Buffalo’s second-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft and Buffalo’s third- and sixth-round selections in the 2020 NHL Draft in exchange for forward Jeff Skinner.
”First and foremost, we thank Jeff for the impact he had on our franchise and our area, both on and off the ice,” said Waddell. ”He’s a good person who has been an excellent representative for our team in the community throughout the past eight years.
”However, with Jeff becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer, this was the right time for us to move on, and to provide Jeff with a fresh start in Buffalo. We talked to every team in the league over the past four months, and ultimately the Sabres were the team that provided us with the best value in return, including three picks and a prospect we like in Cliff Pu.”
Pu, 20, completed his fourth season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2017-18, totaling 84 points (29g, 55a) in 65 games for London and Kingston. Acquired by Kingston on January 4, he led the Frontenacs with 13 assists and totaled 17 points in 16 playoff games, as Kingston advanced to the conference final before falling to eventual champion Hamilton. A Richmond Hill, Ont., native, Pu was teammates with fellow Hurricanes prospect Jeremy Helvig in Kingston.
Selected by Buffalo in the third round, 69th overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft, Pu signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Buffalo on October 23, 2017, and is eligible to play in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season. He totaled 210 career points (80g, 130a) in 232 career games with Oshawa, London and Kingston.
Carolina’s first round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Skinner departs the organization ranked fifth in franchise history in goals (204), seventh in points (379) and ninth in games played (579). He appeared in the NHL All-Star Game in 2011, and won the Calder Memorial Trophy as the league’s top rookie that same season.