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Jeff Skinner Trade Was Inevitable, But Avoidable

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Why?

Jamie Kellner

On Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes shocked the hockey world by shipping forward Jeff Skinner to the Buffalo Sabres for…well, nothing. That’s it. It’s that simple. There’s no other way to spin this. Sorry, Cliff Pu experts.

Jeff Skinner’s services earned the Hurricanes a C-level prospect in Pu, a second round pick, a third round pick and a sixth round pick.

A three-time thirty goal scorer got you that.

A player that has scored above fifty points in four of his eight seasons got you that.

A player that has been cleared of concussion worries and managed to score 49 points while tied to the third line with Derek Ryan got you that.

That’s embarrassing.

How did we get here? How did the Hurricanes go from marketing the face of the franchise to shipping him to western New York? What went wrong?

Relationships are like cuts. If you don’t treat them, take care of them and mend them, they’ll be full of pus and burst before you know it. The relationship between the Hurricanes and Skinner got to this point. He wanted out and it’s tough to point the blame at him for looking for a new home, away from a team that hasn’t provided with the necessary tools to succeed.

Management through Skinner’s tenure here is the culprit of the crime. Jim Rutherford was the general manager when Skinner’s entry level deal expired. He included the no-movement clause that handcuffed the Hurricanes in the present day. Rutherford’s successor, Ron Francis, brought on a coach that constantly feuded with Skinner in Bill Peters. The franchise was seemingly eternally unsure of what his role, was and asked a player known for his scoring touch to become a two-way player.

The plan never worked, and Peters tinkered with Skinner too much and shifted him up and down the line-up, rarely giving him a chance to play with other Hurricanes scoring leaders.

So, why the poor return? Skinner was in charge of his own destiny. There were links to the Los Angeles Kings, the St. Louis Blues and the Pittsburgh Penguins as possible destinations. The Hurricanes were not going to trade Skinner within their division and risk the chance of him lighting the lamp in multiple games against them this season. The choice was up to Skinner, and as LA and St. Louis tied their hands financially after they shaped their rosters, a team with the cap room to fit Skinner’s $5.75 million hit had to be found.

Enter Buffalo. The Sabres had the cap space and have enticing options on offense, such as Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, that most likely played a factor in Skinner’s decision. Top prospect Casey Mittelstadt is on the way and could see time this year. The team just drafted one of the best defensive prospects in the past ten years in Rasmus Dahlin. Buffalo is not the same team that finished an abysmal season back in April. The team has added valuable complimentary pieces to an already young core in place.

The beauty of the trade from Skinner’s personal standpoint is he doesn’t have to stay if it doesn’t work out. On an expiring deal, Skinner could be one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market come next off-season. His contract demands for next season will most likely be north of his current cap hit, especially if he reaches the 60-70 point threshold next season playing next to a competent center in Eichel. If Buffalo doesn’t pay up, fine; Skinner can explore options in markets that may be desperate for scoring. He comes out of this deal a winner either way.

There will be pundits trying to justify the unjustifiable over the next few days. You may hear slander from sites or leaks about Skinner’s character. Just one night ago, Skinner was at a ping-pong charity event that raised over $200,000 for concussion and rare cancer research.

His play shows just what he gave to a franchise in its most incompetent state. Skinner brought life and energy to a team that has had no hope over the past nine playoff-less seasons all while having that signature smile on his face. With tomahawks and pirouettes aplenty, he provided entertainment to an otherwise bleak nine-year stretch.

Up until this point, the Hurricanes made moves that made the media and the fans believe they would at least be able to tread water in the Metropolitan Division. Strong rookie seasons by both Martin Necas and Andrei Svechnikov could have even put them up into one of the top three spots in the division. Now, the Hurricanes will need to search for answers on offense because they don’t currently have a definite solution. Perhaps it’s too early to throw in the towel before the season even begins but the Hurricanes could be drowning in their own problems if an offensive life raft is not thrown their way.