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Game #67 – Sabres vs. Hawks Spotlight: Can I See Your Copy Of Swank, Armin?

Now that the Hawks’ season once again lies in rubble and dust, you wouldn’t blame fans for turning their scarred eyes to the summer, and to the hopes of what the Hawks might do in free agency or via trade. One name you’re going to hear more than once is Jeff Skinner.

The Hawks have been connected to Skinner before, a couple times during his days in Carolina. Skinner was seemingly always on the block, and some of it had to do with a reputation of being a complete dickhead in the dressing room. But this is hockey, so even if that was true, what it’s based on could be literally anything. He might have worn orange New Balance shoes once and Jordan Staal would have lost his shit. We don’t know.

The Hawks couldn’t get much into the Skinner trade talks this past summer, as Skinner made it pretty clear he only wanted to go close to his home of Toronto. Buffalo counts. He didn’t cost all that much, three draft picks in the next two drafts and no first-rounders and also a prospect the Hurricanes have already moved along. He won’t cost any picks in the summer, but he will cost a fair amount of money.

Skinner is a lock to put up his first 40-goal season, to go with two other 30+ goal seasons. And if Mark Stone can get $9.5M a year (seriously that contract is STOOOOPID), and he’s never pierced 30, then Skinner’s and his agent’s eyes must be lighting up. Especially considering Skinner is just 26. Might they be looking at eight figures? That’s hard to justify, especially if you look deeper.

Skinner is an elite sniper, so his metrics are always going to be outdone by his actual performance. Or at least they usually will be. But this season is something of an outlier even in that. Skinner is averaging less shots, less attempts, and less chances than he has in the last five years, and that’s with getting to play with actual talent in Buffalo instead of Raleigh (the Canes never had a center in the stratus of Jack Eichel, until Aho this year). And yet he’s cashing in at 16.3% of his chances at even-strength, which is miles over what he’s done before. It’s also double his expected shooting percentage, based on the chances he’s getting. Again, Skinner is a gifted scorer, and he’ll regularly outshoot his expected percentages, but double? On the plus side, he does always stay on the positive side of the possession count and ahead of his team’s rate. But he’s also been heavily, heavily kept in the offensive zone on his shifts, so he’d better.

There also is an element of, “Yeah, but who gives a shit?” with Skinner. He’s never played a playoff game, won’t this year, and he’s never been all that close. So no team has been good because Skinner is on it. It’s hard for a winger to accomplish that, but it’s something an inquiring team might want to consider, especially if you’re going to hand him Scrooge McDuck’s vault. It could be that Skinner is just something of a luxury player and you’d better have everything else.

Again, 40 goals is 40 goals. But given the spike in his percentages, more likely Skinner tops out as a 30-35 goal guy. And that’s hardly a nothing. But it’s not something you pay more than $7M per year for, and Skinner is likely to be asking for more than that. Buyer beware.


Game #67 Preview Suite




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