Givanni Damico | June 8th, 2019
Breathe, Sabres’ fans! He’s back. For the first time in his career, Jeff Skinner was a 40-goal scorer during the 2018-2019 season. When the Sabres were on their crazy 10-game winning streak, Skinner was a Godsend. He was the reason they won many games this season, recording seven game-winning goals for Buffalo. Unfortunately for the team, they faltered and fell off into irrelevance once again. Buffalo got its 15 seconds of fame, but they also figured out how valuable of an asset Skinner is. The new deal is an eight-year deal worth an AAV (average annual value) of $9 million.
Was Jeff Skinner overpaid? The simple answer is no. Despite falling off in production towards the end of the season, Skinner constantly provided a spark for them and they would have never been in contention at any point in the season without him. He and Jack Eichel are the leaders of this young team and they will be for years to come. People must remember that Jeff Skinner is only 27 years old. He is just now reaching his prime. Last season was by no means a fluke. Skinner found himself in a new environment and proved his value to a fanbase that is very loving of anyone who can contribute.
Next season, I could see Skinner scoring 50 goals. It’s not outside of this realm for him to put up a 75-point season, especially with all of the young talent that Buffalo has. Buffalo’s biggest issue going forward will be goaltending. At the beginning of 2018, Carter Hutton looked like a fantastic signing, but by the end of the season, he fizzled out and ended up having below-average stats. Linus Ullmark started the season off strong as well. His goals-against average ended at 3.11 with a .905 save percentage. I don’t see Ullmark getting over the hump of “really good backup goalie” to “(almost) everyday starter”. Luckily for the Sabres, they have a very decorated young goalie by the name of Uuko-Pekka Luukkonen who took home many awards in the OHL this season. He will most likely not be ready for Buffalo next season, and they shouldn’t rush him. They should ride Ullmark with Hutton as a backup and see how that goes, and depending on how desperate they get, maybe they give Luukkonen or even Adam Wilcox a shot. Jeff Skinner’s production will be crucial to the Sabres’ success in 2019-2020. He can’t miss a step.
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