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Belief in roster, comfort in community kept Skinner in Buffalo

Forward addressed media inside KeyBank Center on Tuesday

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Jeff Skinner said throughout last season that he would take time to reflect before determining whether to stay in Buffalo or explore other destinations once his contract expired on July 1. 

True to his word, he went home after the season and weighed what was important to him, then thought about how his first campaign in a Sabres uniform stacked up in those areas. The answer became clear.

"The top things on my list were all the positive things about Buffalo," Skinner said. 

Video: SKINNER PRESS CONFERENCE

Skinner addressed the media on Tuesday during a press conference inside KeyBank Center, where he detailed his decision to forego unrestricted free agency and sign an eight-year, $72 million contract with the Sabres. 

He previously explained his decision in a letter to fans on Saturday, which you can read here.  

Skinner listed the opportunity to play on a competitive team, a natural fit in the locker room and an ideal living situation for him and his family as factors that played into his decision.

"I love it here and I had a great time last year," he said. "Obviously, disappointed with the result, but when you're sort of looking at the overall picture, I had a great time and a great experience with everything - with teammates, with the fans, with the community, everyone in the organization. 

"Obviously, I just didn't feel the need to get to [free agency] because I like it here and I didn't feel like it needed to get to that point where I wanted to look elsewhere."

Skinner also had the benefit of an introductory phone call with new Sabres coach Ralph Krueger, who he said exuded sincere excitement and optimism about being in Buffalo.

"I think the thing that sticks out is his excitement, just his genuine excitement to be in Buffalo and get things rolling," Skinner said. "As a player, I think that's the kind of thing that excites you. When a coach has that, when your leader has that, it can be kind of infectious and spread from him on down."

Beyond Krueger, Skinner cited the potential of the organization's young players and their early success last season as reasons for his belief in their ability to contend moving forward. At 27, Skinner is now a veteran member of a core that includes Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt - all of whom are below the age of 24. 

Skinner led the Sabres with a career-high 40 goals last season after being acquired from Carolina, where he spent the first eight seasons of his career. His 32 even-strength goals were the most by a Sabres player since Alexander Mogilny in 1992-93. 

"He came in and he scored goals," Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said Saturday. "It's pretty much what the game's about, is scoring goals, and it's something that we struggled with. We understand that Jeff's goal total will probably fluctuate over his time in Buffalo. 

"But [when] you look back on the stats he is extremely consistent in creating chances at even strength and certainly his rate of the success rate of capitalization on scoring goals is going to fluctuate from year to year. But it's something that we talked a lot about, improving our scoring up front and improving our depth scoring. We want to add to our group and not try to have to go out there and try to replace what Jeff Skinner can bring."

Video: Skinner signs long-term contract

While his prior production and new contract are sure to come with outside expectations, Skinner said he won't let them affect his approach. 

"I don't think I'm different than any athlete, really," he said. "I think you expect to keep getting better. Any athlete in this sport is a competitive person, I think. You put pressure on yourself to perform and you hold yourself to a high standard. For me, that's not going to change. That's a mindset.

"I know there's going to be more expectations, there's going to be talk about it in the media and stuff like that. But for me, I just focus on playing. I focus on getting better, starting with the summer. You go back, you look at your game, try to improve as much you can and come into camp prepared. We'll come together as a team in camp and get to work on our goal."

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