Happy Holidays, Buffalo!
All-world talent Jeff Skinner, who was acquired in the only good trade Buffalo has ever made, will probably lose in the first round of the playoffs (if the Sabres even make it there) before signing somewhere else as a UFA. As you may know, he has an expiring contract and has not signed on to play for Buffalo in the future.
Already 0-1 in his Sabres career against the Leafs, you doubt he’d pass up a chance to play for one of the league’s hottest offences.
Unfortunately for Buffalo fans, the team is garbage outside of Jeff Skinner.
Don’t believe it? Look below!
Jack Eichel, for example, considerably brings down Jeff Skinner. Some looks at their 5v5 data from this year:
- Skinner’s possession stats without Eichel are better, moving his Corsi from very high without (nearly 55! to league average (barely over 50% with).
- Without Skinner on the ice, Eichel is putting up a GF/60 rate of 1.47… which is worse than literally every team in the NHL’s average, including the offence-starved LA Kings.
But even if you attribute it to the randomness of hockey and think Eichel is a good player…
you probably shouldn’t look at the rest of the team! When these two players aren’t on the ice, the Sabres would still be scoring at the 31st lowest total in the league. oof!
Either the stats are wrong, (they usually aren’t) or you are! The Sabres without Eichel also boast a Corsi For % of 46.49 without either of those two.. which would be the 6th best in the league.
Before you get on your high horse about how any other team would look bad if you took away their two best players.
Let’s look at the same numbers for the Leafs.
As you can see, the Leafs pick up 53% of the goals when these two offensive weapons are not on the ice.
Why Jeff Skinner?
Because he’s good, and him not being on the Sabres would make them far worse and either easier to beat in the playoffs or kill their playoff chances entirely. They were bad before he was there and will be bad after he leaves. Simple math, really!
How a trade could work
The Leafs probably don’t need their first round pick this year. The Sabres probably don’t need Jeff Skinner, and should tank, because they obviously aren’t that good.
What the Sabres should do: trade Jeff Skinner for the first round pick. He wasn’t even worth a first-round pick this summer. If that’s not enough, add a second. Add a third too. Add any prospect not named Timothy Liljegren or Rasmus Sandin and whoop! That’s a Jeff Skinner in Toronto to bolster up on the wings.
Unfortunately, salaries are involved because the NHL likes to reward non-traditional markets like Buffalo into pretending they’re competitive. Jeff Skinner’s $5,725,000 salary would put the Leafs over the cap. The easiest thing to do would to be to get Buffalo to retain salary. Who cares if you’re Buffalo? He’s going to sign somewhere else in July, so just let him get you the best return you can and eat half the salary. No harm paying a retained salary if it nets you a better draft pick for a brief financial cost.
But the optics are bad there… so the Leafs could move another contract. Why not add in Connor Brown, who’s making $2,100,000 this year and next? That would clear the necessary cap room.
Anyway, it’s a deal that makes sense for both sides: good teams should have good players (like Jeff Skinner) and try to win, bad teams should have bad players (like Connor Brown) and try to lose. Jeff Skinner would be a great rental player and if you want you can even try to re-sign him when you’re good in a few years. We’ll even get Kyle Dubas to add a first-round pick!