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Skinner signs eight-year, $72 million contract with Sabres

Forward could have been free agent July 1 after scoring NHL career-high 40 goals

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Jeff Skinner signed an eight-year, $72 million contract Friday to remain with the Buffalo Sabres. It has an average annual value of $9 million.

"Playing in Buffalo, you mean so much to the community," the forward told the Sabres website. "As a player, you really have to take pride in that. It's something I'm going to continue to take pride in for the next eight years."

The Sabres made it a priority to sign Skinner before July 1, when the forward could have become an unrestricted free agent, after Ralph Krueger was hired as coach to replace Phil Housley on May 15.

"If you're going to sign a long-term contract with an organization, you kind of want to know who the head coach is," Buffalo general manager Jason Botterill said. "We've kept in dialogue with Jeff and certainly made him aware of who we were going to name here as head coach today, just as we did with a lot of our leadership group."

The 27-year-old scored an NHL career-high 40 goals and tied his high with 63 points in 82 games this season, his first with Buffalo after being acquired Aug. 2, 2018, in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes for forward prospect Cliff Pu and three draft picks.

"I've said through the whole process, both sides want to get a deal," Botterill said. "I think it's been a very good relationship from the Buffalo Sabres' standpoint. I also think it's been a very good relationship from Jeff's standpoint."

Video: BUF@DET: Skinner nets wrister to hit 40-goal mark

Skinner and Krueger spoke on the phone after the coach was hired.

"With the pieces that we have now and the development of some of our younger players, I believe we have a chance to be consistently competitive for a long time," Skinner said. "It will be fun to see how Ralph Krueger helps us reach the next level. Before I even had the chance to speak with him, I had a few different people reach out and tell me about their positive experiences with him. Our conversation on the phone seemed to confirm all those things. 

"He's obviously a great leader, and his resume speaks for itself. What stood out from our conversation was how excited he was to be in Buffalo. I think his excitement is genuine and reflects the feeling we have as players."

Krueger said, "[Jeff's] tone in his voice when it came to the past and the future. He was comfortable in that line. I initiated the call in that way and it never went in another direction, and Jeff had the opportunity to change direction if he wanted to. It was really just the flow of the conversation that made me feel comfortable. I felt he really loved to be here and that he was happy to be here."

The Sabres fired Housley on April 7 after going 33-39-10 and finishing 13th in the Eastern Conference. They have not qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2010-11.

"We didn't reach our goals as a team last season. That was disappointing," Skinner said. "But coming into a new locker room, a new community, a new organization, all those adjustments felt positive."

Video: Friedman talks Skinner signing contract with Sabres

Selected by Carolina with the No. 7 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, Skinner was voted the Calder Trophy winner as the NHL rookie of the year in 2010-11, when the Toronto native he had 63 points (31 goals, 32 assists) in 82 games. He has 442 points (244 goals, 198 assists) in 661 NHL games with the Hurricanes and Sabres.

"When I played in Carolina, it took a lot of planning for my parents and family to be able to watch me play. They needed to arrange days off from work and make a weekend out of it," Skinner said. "Last season, they were able to drive up for the game and drive home after. So, yeah, I think it's safe to say they were pretty happy I landed in Buffalo."

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