Perhaps it being August is leading me to read too much into whatever little is happening with the Hawks, or around the league in general. It is the Doldrums, as we dubbed this time of year long ago, and it appears some of the bigger moves are going to happen on the eve of or during training camp. Except there was one big move, and it involved a player the Hawks were rumored to be after. Or at least that’s what they want you to think.
Jeff Skinner was traded from Carolina, who were pretty desperate to get rid of him, to the Buffalo Sabres for a 2nd, 3rd, and 6th round pick and a prospect named Cliff Pu and let’s all just ruminate on that for a second.
Now that we’ve done that, let’s refocus. This is basically a nothing package for a player with three 30-goal seasons on the weapons-shy Hurricanes, who has never had a real center when he wasn’t playing it himself. Skinner has 204 goals in eight seasons (seven and a half really thanks to the Season In A Can Of ’13). These guys don’t grow on fucking trees, and really the only thing of value the Canes got was a 2nd round pick this year. Pu (ruminate again) has played four seasons in the OHL, where he’s been all right. His best mark was two years ago where he put up 86 points in London, but that’s just about the buy-in for the Knights. He’s got decent size but is clearly a season in the AHL away before making it to the big time, if that. And he flattened out in his fourth season in the OHL, when you’re supposed to be dominating children at the age of 20. This is not an A-list prospect.
Now, it could very well be that Skinner is an asshat, as has been whispered about him for a while and cited as a reason the Canes wanted to see him hit the ol’ dusty trail. Or it could be the Canes don’t have any idea what they’re doing, as they still have not added a forward or center they so desperately need other than Andrei Svhechnikov, whom they just drafted. But with Skinner heading out the door for nothing that’s going to be on the roster this season, that would seem to be a push. And even if Skinner is a diaper rash, that’s what strong coaching and leadership is supposed to iron out, something I’m told the Hawks have in spades.
You could also be trading for just one year of Skinner. He’s due $5.75M this year and then goes UFA. But the Hawks have clung and clung to this “flexibility” idea, which Skinner’s expiring deal would still leave them, to re-sign Nick Schmaltz (who could get very expensive with another 50+ point season) and Dylan Sikura, should that be deemed an emergency (and let’s just say I have to be convinced that it will be). Should Skinner put up another 30-35 goals, or more considering he’ll actually have a center now in Eichel, he’s probably looking at a $7-$8M payday, maybe more. He’ll basically be the next best option on the market after Artemi Panarin, if you’re forecasting it now.
But still, what’s clear is that the Hawks have a hole on the top six, and Skinner would have filled it. As it stands, Toews, Saad, Schmaltz, Kane, and DeBrincat are on the top six, and as you’ll notice that’s only five. I assume they want Sikura to prove to take it, but again, color me skeptical until given good reason to be otherwise. Not only does this team have a blue line that looks like something out of The Annoyance Theater, but it looks short of goals.
So what are we to conclude about the Hawks not getting a player they’ve been hotly rumored to want? They thought that package was too much? They thought those draft picks were too valuable? That would mean they’re punting on this year, and as we keep saying with all your “core” players being over 30, you don’t get a year to punt. Or they know Crawford won’t play and the year’s been punted for them anyway. They certainly have enough prospects on the level of Pu (take your time) to have put this together.
Or should we conclude that Skinner used his NMC to rule out a trade to the Hawks? That he preferred the fucking Sabres to the Hawks because at least whatever talent they have, basically Eichel and Rasmus Dahlin now, has brighter prospects RIGHT NOW than the Hawks? That he thought the safest bet going into his UFA years was not playing on Toews’s or Schmaltz’s wing but in Buffalo. Again, BUFFALO.
The Hawks can’t claim that they didn’t go hard after Skinner because they want to maintain flexibility, because he only has the one year left. They can’t claim they didn’t like the player because we basically know they called about him and Justin Faulk. And if they did like him than they would consider signing him long-term if things worked. And again, if they didn’t, that wasn’t much of a package to take a flier. Or they were so worried about his personality that they thought Q and Toews couldn’t corral him and keep him focused (that’s just conjecture right now). Or they really think they can’t give up picks that aren’t in the first round.
So what about any of that makes you feel good?