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Botterill, Krueger discuss 'positive' discussions with Skinner

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said that contract discussions with representatives for forward Jeff Skinner remain positive during a brief session with the media on Wednesday morning. 

Botterill spoke following an introductory press conference for new Sabres coach Ralph Krueger, who said he has spoken at length with Skinner since being hired on May 15.

Skinner, who led the Sabres with 40 goals after being acquired prior to last season, can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. 

"I'd say discussions continue to go very well, but as I've said before, you never have a deal completely done until there's a signature on there," Botterill said. "But I think, as I've said before, through the whole process both sides want to get a deal. 

"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. We've continued the dialogue going."

Botterill said that both he and Skinner's representatives at Newport Sports felt it was important to temper discussions until the Sabres had a head coach in place. Talks have picked up in the weeks since Krueger's hiring, with both sides working toward a deal. 

"I feel good where it's at right now," Botterill said. "Hopefully we can finalize it."

Krueger characterized his conversation with Skinner as positive. The two spoke over the phone with Skinner training out of state.

"For me, more than anything, the conversation was about how I as a coach would l like to utilize his skillset and his talent," he said. "I work on the basis that Jeff Skinner is a Buffalo Sabre. As a result, that's how our conversation went. 

"Everything else, Jason has complete control of that process. It will happen for what is best for the Sabres in the end. But I enjoyed my conversation with Jeff. I could feel his unbelievable passion for the game, and I see a skillset there that is unique and can still be built upon."

While maintaining that Botterill has control over the negotiation process, Krueger said Skinner's tone while discussing the future left him optimistic that he would remain with the Sabres going forward.

"He was comfortable on that line," Krueger said. "I initiated the call in that way and it never went in another direction. Jeff had the opportunity to change the direction if he wanted to do so. It was really the flow of the conversation that made me feel comfortable. I mean, I felt he really loved to be here."

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