Jeff Skinner was traded to the Buffalo Sabres by the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday for forward prospect Cliff Pu, a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, and a third-round and a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
"I think first and foremost, the young group of players they have, the young core, is exciting," Skinner said. "There's a lot of good players and I'm excited to join those guys and be a piece of the puzzle.
"I think you name their seven, eight youngest [talented] players, Jack Eichel's probably at the top of the list. Obviously Rasmus Dahlin, I haven't seen him play, but I've heard a lot about him. I've read a bunch of stories on everything that he's been [doing] this summer. It's probably been a busy summer for him. He's an exciting piece."
Skinner, a 26-year-old forward, had 49 points (24 goals, 25 assists) in 82 games last season. He can become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said they did not discuss a contract extension with Skinner.
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"I don't know what (Skinner's contract demands) were going to be because we never had those conversations, but for Jeff, I think he was looking for a fresh start too," Waddell said. "He's going to a place where he's going to play with some very good top-end players. He's a Toronto native. He had a full no-trade clause. Buffalo was always a team that was very high on his list."
Sabres general manager Jason Botterill told The Buffalo News he has not discussed a contract extension with Skinner, but said the fact he chose to approve the trade to the Sabres was a positive sign.
Skinner scored at least 20 goals in six of his eight seasons with Carolina, including an NHL career-high 37 in 2016-17, and won the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year in 2010-11.
"I think when you look at it moving forward on that basis, it's exciting for me. It's going to be a fresh start," Skinner said. "I know a few guys on the team, but it's going to my first time going to a new organization and meeting sort of all the new staff and meeting a bunch of new teammates. It's certainly something I'm looking forward to and I'm excited to get started."
Skinner ranks seventh in the NHL with 74 even-strength goals the past three seasons, tied with Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid and one behind Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov. St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko leads with 85.
"We're extremely excited to have Jeff on board," Botterill said. "I respect his work ethic a lot off the ice, his professionalism, how he handles himself. He comes to training camp in great shape, a true professional. From that standpoint, we've talked about our group being more competitive, playing with more pace. That's right up Jeff's game right there. ... You look at even-strength scoring the past couple of years in Buffalo. One of his strengths, he's a consistent goal-scorer."
Selected in the first round (No. 7) of the 2010 NHL Draft, Skinner is fifth in Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers history in goals (204), seventh in points (379) and ninth in games played (579).
"This is the longest I've ever worked on one player (trade)," Waddell said. "We just never felt like we were getting value. We just said we were going to keep the player and see how things go. Finally, we got comfortable with the player and the draft picks we were going to get."
Video: Sabres acquire Jeff Skinner from Hurricanes
Pu, a third-round pick (No. 69) in the 2016 NHL Draft, signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Sabres on Oct. 23, 2017. The 20-year-old had 84 points (29 goals, 55 assists) in 65 games for London and Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League last season.
Acquired by Kingston on Jan. 4, he had 17 points and a team-high 13 assists in 16 playoff games. Pu (6-foot-2, 191 pounds) had 210 points (80 goals, 130 assists) in 232 games with Oshawa, London and Kingston.
"He needs to get bigger, stronger," Waddell said. "Skates well, great hockey sense, and he put up big numbers. But it's a big step from junior hockey to the NHL, so to expect him to make that jump this year might be tough, but certainly he's a guy, looking at his track record, he's always been able to score at every level he's been."
The Hurricanes selected forward Andrei Svechnikov with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and expect forward Martin Necas, the No. 12 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, to challenge for a full-time NHL spot. Carolina this offseason traded forward Elias Lindholm to the Calgary Flames.
"We wouldn't be making these moves if we didn't think the players we have in place can do it," Waddell said. "If we picked at No. 11 in the draft, we may not be talking about this. But being fortunate enough to go No. 2 and pick up Andrei, and watching Necas in the World Championships and knowing he's going to be a player that's ready to play in the NHL ... the decision isn't made in one day. It's made on what's happened through the entire offseason. We felt we got to the point where we're very comfortable with our forwards and we could afford to move Jeff on."
Carolina added defenseman Dougie Hamilton in the trade with Calgary and signed defenseman Calvin de Haan as a free agent, leading to speculation the Hurricanes would trade a defenseman, most likely Justin Faulk.
"I'm not actively shopping any of the defensemen right now, but I am fielding calls," Waddell said. "If somebody steps up and makes us a deal that's going to make us better, we will listen."
NHL.com staff writer Mike Zeisberger and correspondent Kurt Dusterberg contributed to this report.