Dreger plays devil’s advocate on Skinner’s future in Buffalo

Jeff Skinner is lighting the NHL on fire this year, but a long-term contract in Buffalo may not be a fait accompli.

Having been dealt from the Carolina Hurricanes in August, the talented 26-year-old winger has been thriving with the Sabres this season.

He’s also slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Darren Dreger had a Leafs Lunch appearance Thursday afternoon on Toronto’s TSN 1050, and co-host Gord Miller wondered if the Insider had heard any talks about the Sabres trying to negotiate with Skinner to get an extension done before he hits the market.

“Our friends at WGR in Buffalo speculated late last week that he’s going to come in around that 8.5-9-plus mark,” noted Dreger. “That would be what would be expected from Skinner’s perspective.

“What I know is the two sides agreed prior to the start of the season that they would not get into any heavy lifting/negotiating until around Christmas or even very early in the New Year. And that was in fairness to both sides, right. Jeff Skinner, new to the Buffalo Sabres organization - give him time to get his bearings and see what sort of impact that he’d have on the team, and vice versa from Jason Botterill and the Buffalo Sabres’ perspective.

“Well, it looks like a can’t-lose now because he’s playing like a player who’s in his contact year and he’s having great success with the Buffalo Sabres. But I’m not so convinced where they’re at a place where they’re willing to invest in him yet long term. Maybe they get there. Maybe they get there between now and Christmas or early into the New Year, but I think that Buffalo has a real good grasp of where they’re at in terms of development, progress, all of those things, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some discussion on whether you throw a player like that into the rental market come February 25, if you don’t have a deal that makes sense.

“And look, I’m a Jeff Skinner fan. Everybody likes to see these young guys score goals. And I’m not trying to change your point here Gord, but it is important to note he’s 26. I mean, that is perfect age, isn’t it. You’re right in your prime, so you could see Buffalo for sure investing.

“But I think that there’s still some feeling out that has to go on. This is a team that loves the way their group is playing, but they also know where they’re at. So maybe instead of investing in Skinner - and I’m not saying they’re not going to, I’m just playing devil’s advocate - you kick tires on a name like that, assuming that he continues to score, what’s the rate of return? Again, for a team that’s still in a renovating, rebuilding sort of position, maybe they get a king’s ransom for him.

“I’m not saying they’re going to do that, I just wonder if they wouldn’t consider it.”

Skinner has 15 goals and eight assists through 22 games, and the 14-6-2 Sabres are enjoying a seven-game winning streak.

Skinner’s cap hit is $5.725 million, and his contract does contain a no-move clause.

Contract-related info via CapFriendly