Positives and negatives of the Jeff Skinner contract

In what was an incredible coincidence yesterday, I was in the process of writing an article about wanting to extend Jeff Skinner’s contract as soon as possible and predicting what kind of money he would get in the deal. When I was half-way done with the article, I noticed a tweet from Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford saying that they were close to announcing that they had signed Jeff Skinner to a contract extension. This was something I was in favor of because extending Skinner now meant that the team had a chance to get better value for him now than they would if they did it next season. It was also better for the Canes to get this deal done before the current CBA expires so they can keep Skinner around for as long as they want.

Skinner ended up getting a six-year contract worth $34,350,000 that will have a cap hit of $5.725 mil. per season. The deal will pay him $4,350,000 the first year and then $6,000,000 the next five years. As of right now, this contract is an overpayment because the Canes are going to be paying $4.35-6 mil. for the first four years of the deal, which is a lot considering those are RFA years and Skinner has only two years of NHL experience. Now, a cap hit of $5.725 mil. isn’t a big deal under the current salary cap and I have little doubt that Skinner can be worth that much as he develops, but the Hurricanes missed out on getting value for Skinner’s RFA years.

One of the benefits of extending Skinner now instead of next year was that Rutherford would be in the driver’s seat with negotiations and could get Skinner locked up at a slightly lower price than they would if his contract was expiring. They ended up paying about as much as they would if they waited until next year when Skinner becomes an RFA. It’s not the worst thing in the world but I was expecting Skinner to get about $550k-$1 mil. less than he did with this deal. The $70.3 mil. salary cap obviously changes a lot of things but there is still the worry about the cap going down again once the new CBA kicks in, especially if there isn’t a salary rollback.

Overall, I’m fine with the deal even if the Hurricanes gave Skinner a little more than they should have right now. If the cap stays the same as it is now, then Skinner’s $5.725 mil. cap hit shouldn’t be too big of a problem and there is a good chance that Skinner is worth that much over the duration of the contract if he continues to improve. He could also give the Hurricanes significant value for their money if he turns into something really special in the next few years, especially since he will now be in Carolina for most of his prime years. Rutherford is paying for potential with this contract but I think he knows that he can’t nickel and dime players like Skinner. With that said, I still can’t help but feel that Carolina had a chance to get him for a little less than what they are going to be paying for him now.

Still, this isn’t a bad deal and the Hurricanes have a pretty solid forward corps locked up for a good few years now with him, the Staals and Tuomo Ruutu under contract until the 2015-16 season. The only major risk with this contract is that the RFA age/year limit could change with the new CBA and the Hurricanes might end up paying $6 mil. for all of Skinner’s RFA years and he would still be restricted when the contract runs out. This could mean that the Hurricanes will have to give Skinner an even bigger deal once this next one runs out if they wish to keep him. This issue was out of Rutherford’s control though, so we’ll have to see how things play out. If the RFA age/year limit stays the same, then the Canes should be fine.

As of right now, the deal is an overpayment by RFA standards but Skinner’s value is obviously going to trend upward over the next few years and there is a good chance that he is worth the money/cap hit as he gets older. Rutherford may have been able to get him at a lower cost but this hopefully won’t become too big of an issue. Skinner improved a lot last season and was arguably the team’s best forward behind Eric Staal even if his goal/point total did show it.