Jeff Skinner has yet to experience the Stanley Cup Playoffs in two seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes. After signing a six-year contract extension with the club Wednesday, he hopes that will all change in the near future.
The 20-year-old Skinner, who has one year left on his entry-level deal, is now locked up through the 2018-19 season. The new deal is for a total $34.35 million with a salary-cap hit of $5.725 million. Skinner will make $4.35 million during the 2013-14 season and $6 million a season over the rest of the contract.
Jordan Staal to a 10-year, $60 million contract and landing sniper Alexander Semin in free agency with a one-year, $7 million deal.
All contract details are according to Capgeek.com.
"It's nice to be a part of the organization for even longer," Skinner said. "Obviously, I'm very grateful for them to select me in the draft (No. 7 in 2010) and then today showing me the confidence to have me around long-term. It's definitely a nice message and hopefully I can prove them right."
As a rookie, Skinner was on the cusp of tasting the postseason. All the Hurricanes needed to do was beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in their final game of the regular season to secure a berth, but Carolina was demolished in a 6-2 home loss.
Last season had the same outcome without the drama. The Hurricanes fell into an early-season hole with an 8-14-4 start and eventually fired coach Paul Maurice. The team's fortunes eventually began to turn under new coach Kirk Muller, but Carolina still finished last in the Southeast Division with 82 points.
"That's the goal going into any season, is to make it to the postseason, and once you get there, anything can happen," Skinner said. "I think that's definitely going to be our mindset. Obviously, losing out in the last game my first year and then this past season, not getting off to the start we wanted to and digging ourselves too big of a hole, we can use those past two seasons that I've been a part of and learn from them and come out and have a good start and take it from there."
With the additions of Staal and Semin, the expectations will be high in Carolina. The same can be said for Skinner, who could feel the pressure to do more after signing a massive contract.
"That's a pretty good point," Skinner said. "Just not putting too much pressure on yourself. I think all athletes want to perform the best they can. Going forward, it's not going to change the way you sort of look at yourself. I mean, I know the investment and the confidence the Canes are showing in me and I appreciate that and I hope I can come through."
In his brief time in the NHL, Skinner has shown why the Hurricanes want to keep him in Raleigh for the long term.
Skinner took home the Calder Trophy in 2011 after his 31-goal, 63-point rookie season. He was on his way to matching those numbers last season, but a concussion cost him 16 games in the middle of the season. He finished with 20 goals and 44 points in 64 games and his 210 shots were only five fewer than his rookie season in which he played 82 games.
Skinner did his best to show he had no ill effects from his injury at the World Championship, posting three goals and two assists in eight games for Team Canada.
"I felt like I played well there," Skinner said. "Coming off my injury, it's always tough to come back in the middle of the season after taking that much time off. I think getting that confidence back in the World Championships, I think that was the biggest part. I felt like I was playing with a bit more confidence. I hope I can continue that and build off it going into next year."
The Eastern Conference has seen many of the teams that reached the postseason take some hits this summer. The New York Rangers added Rick Nash, but lost a lot of their key depth players. The Philadelphia Flyers lost defenseman Matt Carle. The New Jersey Devils couldn't re-sign Zach Parise. By signing Semin, the Hurricanes made the Southeast rival Washington Capitals weaker in the process.
Between Skinner's new contract and new teammates, there are a lot of reasons for him to be optimistic.
"There's been a lot of big moves from our organization this summer and I think it's exciting," Skinner said. "I don't know any other word you can use to describe it. It's exciting to see ownership and management making those kinds of moves. Hopefully that's a sign we can step up next season."
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