It’s alternate reality week at SB Nation. What if this game changed? What if this trade never happened? How would certain events changing have altered a franchise’s long-term fate? Canes Country actually did a “revisionist history” two offseasons ago, but there are plenty of events we didn’t cover, or can offer fresh perspective on. Justin keeps it rolling by retaining a former core player.
Once upon a time, Hurricanes fans probably couldn’t imagine a future without Jeff Skinner. On Aug. 2nd, 2018, that future became a reality and everysince then the Hurricanes have been...fine, actually.
At the time and in the immediate future, the trade seemed a rare blunder for Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell who has made a series of nifty moves in his tenure to keep the Hurricanes a playoff contender post COVID-19 and into the future. The Hurricanes acquired Cliff Pu, Buffalo’s 2019 2nd round pick and the Sabres’ third and sixth round picks in 2020. The return seemed underwhelming for a consistent 30-goal scorer. Pu was forced off a stacked Calder Cup caliber Charlotte Checkers roster and has since spent time with the Springfield Thunderbirds and Greenville Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL.
But think for a moment. What if the Hurricanes hadn’t traded Skinner and even yet - re-signed him?
At the time, it seemed like a penny-pinching move to not sign Skinner but it has actually opened up the Hurricanes to a wealth of possibilities in the salary cap era. Post COVID-19, the Hurricanes will have a future in which they will need to re-sign Andrei Svechnikov and Martin Necas, essential parts of their core. Having Skinner’s massive contract ($9M AAV) on the books would force tough decisions to be made regarding the current balanced roster the Hurricanes have.
What would Skinner’s production look like if he stayed, regardless of what it cost? It can be argued his numbers would have increased as the talent matured around him and the influx of youth and new players gave way to a more well-rounded lineup instead of the top-heavy lineup that existed through most of Skinner’s tenure in Raleigh.
Or does the risk of what happened during this COVID-19 shortened season happen in Raleigh? Skinner was on pace for one of the worst seasons of his career with just 23 points in 59 games before the season was put on hold. This is a stark contrast to what happened with Skinner the previous season in which he posted a career-high 40 goals.
It’s hard to tell what an alternate reality would look like if Skinner was still a member of the Hurricanes. However, the Hurricanes have done just fine without him, and this is what one move that definitely doesn’t need reversing.