Report: Dialogue between Sabres and Skinner starting to intensify

May 30, 2019 - 6:45 am

Contract negotiations between the Buffalo Sabres and forward Jeff Skinner seem to be picking up as the free agency period approaches on July 1.

According to TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie while on the NBC Sports Network broadcast with Kathryn Tappen, Sabres general manager Jason Botterill and Skinner's representatives have met this week with the hope of getting closer to signing a long-term contract extension.

"It's a very crucial time," McKenzie said. "There's been dialogue all week long between Skinner's representatives and Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill. The NHL Combine is in Buffalo, so agents, players, prospects, general managers of all teams are descending on Buffalo. The sense seems to be is that there's optimism, but not to the point where either side is entirely comfortable with the numbers they are exchanging. I do expect that there is likely to be more dialogue in the next 24 hours between Skinner's reps and the Buffalo Sabres."

Both sides took some time off from negotiations due to the team's search for a head coach, as well as Botterill's obligation to Hockey Canada as their general manager for the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Just over two weeks ago, the Sabres hired their new head coach in Ralph Krueger, who has said that he was going to talk with Skinner and get to know him with the hope of helping sway his decision in Buffalo's favor. On Sunday, the World Championship came to a close with Botterill and the Canadians winning a silver medal.

Time has now opened up for both parties to get down to the nitty-gritty details of a possible contract extension. It is thought to be that the Sabres and Skinner are split on money rather than term, and the difference can be anywhere between $1 million over an eight-year contract.

"For quite some time now, I've been saying that I think the sweet spot for a number is an eight-year deal somewhere between $8.5 million per-year and $9.5 million per-year," McKenzie said. "Obviously Skinner would like to get on the high side of that. He wants to try to get a deal in the $9 million range. The Sabres would like the deal to try and be in the $8 million range. We'll see if they can come up with a number that works for both of them."

Despite the differences in negotiations, McKenzie does point out that both sides want to maintain a strong relationship and that they want what's best for both sides.

"Ralph Krueger, the new head coach of Buffalo, has spent some time with Skinner, extolling the virtues of his program and what they think it's going to be," McKenzie said. "Buffalo certainly wants him back and Skinner would like to come back, but they just have to [massage out the final numbers] to the point where both sides are happy. It's very close, but it's not done, and until it's done, it's not done."

The 27-year-old just put up a career-year in his first season with the Sabres, reaching the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career and matching a career-high 63 points in 82 games played.

The Sabres acquired Skinner last August in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, sending prospect Cliff Pu, a second round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a third and sixth round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

Skinner is set to officially become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

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