Friday was a very good day for Jeff Skinner, at least in the aggregate.
The Toronto-born winger made his return to the Carolina Hurricanes for the first time since being traded to the Buffalo Sabres in August and it was darn sure personal. Granted, his Sabres lost to the hosts by a final score of 4-3 and the 26-year-old would swear up and down that he wanted that win.
But Skinner did score a goal, plus he found out he was named to the All-Star game. And that goal he scored? His 30th this season.
That puts him two goals behind Alex Ovechkin and a goal ahead of John Tavares, which is a pretty cushy spot. It also puts him on pace for the best offensive season of his career. He scored 37 goals with the Hurricanes in 2016-2017 and burst onto the scene with a 31-goal rookie campaign in 2010-2011.
To say that the Hurricanes have missed him would be an understatement. Carolina is languishing offensively and must be tossing more than a few green-eyed looks at Skinner, who’s lighting the lamp with astounding symmetry in Buffalo. He has four goals in his last four games, including two against Florida to start 2019.
The Hurricanes picked Skinner in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft and he charged right into the league, playing all 82 games in his debut season. He snagged the Calder Trophy along the way and was named to the All-Star game.
Over the course of eight years with the Hurricanes, Skinner scored 204 goals. But his club never made the playoffs during his run and he waived his no-movement clause to accept a trade to the Sabres in a deal that sent Cliff Pu and a pile of picks the other way.
Skinner had/has a year to go on his contract, but the trade talk was all about how Jason Botterill pulled off a small miracle in landing the forward without coughing up a first-rounder. The deal took four weeks to go down.
And since then, the Buffalo general manager has looked like a genius and the Hurricanes are, well, waddling through the narrow end of the standings.
The next step will be to find Skinner a more enduring fit with the Sabres. Botterill has his work cut out for him, especially with the forward performing like gangbusters. He will be one of the more attractive UFAs this summer, but the probability is that Buffalo will shoot its shot. For now, the posture has been a patient one for both player and team.
And that’s a good thing, especially if it’s led to Skinner playing distraction-free hockey and having the time of his life as a Buffalo Sabre.