The Skinner Bet

June 08, 2019 - 11:47 am

I'll remember a lot of things from the last hockey season. I'll remember the win streak in November, the epic collapse, the emergence of a lethal top line with two guys going to the All-Star Game... and I'll remember my "Skinner Bet".

When the Buffalo Sabres traded for Jeff Skinner last August, I approved. Greatly.

The acquisition was, to me, the final piece of an offseason plan. I'd mentioned him specifically, along with Max Pacioretty, as the kind of player you should buy in the final year of a deal. Screw renting players in February, rent him in August. Get the full year and make a go at this thing.

Once he'd been acquired, my friend Chris and I put together a fun little bet. It all blossomed from my belief that Skinner was an absolute lock to score 30 goals playing with Jack Eichel.

The bet:

  • For every Vlad Guerrero, Jr. home run with the Bisons, I would owe him $2.50
  • For every Jeff Skinner goal, he'd owe me $1

Guerrero, Jr. hit six homers, so I owed $15.

Jeff Skinner paid off that $15 by Thanksgiving.

From that day forward, every time Skinner scored, I got one dollar. It's surprising how rewarding it is to get $1, but over, and over, and over, and over. In the age of Venmo or the Cash app, these micro transactions are little shots of dopamine (I think, right? It sounds right). I would tweet out the screenshots of the dollars, and by the time we were deep into the season, I would get congratulatory tweets about a Skinner goal, before the dollar even showed up. A fun time was had by all!

Skinner scored 40. The season played out as it did. We tried to wipe it from our memories, but of course wondered what would happen with Skinner.

We now have our answer, and Jason Botterill has a much bigger "Skinner Bet". My bet ended up being $25. Jason Botterill's is $72 million.

Context-based "stat of the day" for you on this Skinner deal:

The numbers and stats smart guys seem to like this deal. There's always some sticker shock when shelling out that kind of cash and cap space, but it just goes as the price to play poker. I don't worry too much about these big deals. If Skinner continues to produce at the same level he has to this point in his career, then the Sabres will be fine. If he gives them that rate for six of the eight seasons, they should take that all day every day.

Heck, four seasons would be an improvement from the deals they've made in the last few years. Remember?

But for Botterill, it's another piece that belongs to him. We're three years into this GMJB reign and there isn't too much to show for it. Skinner is now, effectively, his biggest piece. It's been "the good deal" while that bad one still sits out there on television every other night.

Skinner now becomes a core piece. He'll play out his hockey career here.

They still have $20 million in cap space this year, with restricted free agent status for Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Evan Rodrigues, Jake McCabe, and Linus Ullmark.

They have $48 million in space the following year.

It's a big move, and it's justified, but how it will be remembered will come down only to wins and losses. Teams that win have big bloated deals like this. We just don't call them on it. It's hard to say management is inept for the Alex Steen contract, when you're one win away from the Stanley Cup.

Is there an argument to be made against this signing? Sure. I just wasn't ever prepared to make it. It's also worth mentioning that living in the "it's just too much" camp is the easiest take to have, and it's a very safe place to live. It's saying "Mario Williams will never actually live up to that money". He did, by the way. They just didn't win, and because of that... some stick to the idea that it was a mistake. If you're trashing the Sabres because they spent too much, you're not necessarily wrong. I'm just not going to work too hard to find fault with bringing back one of your best players. He's good. It looks sustainable and repeatable. You want to spend it elsewhere? Sure... but you have to have those players want to play for you. For the Sabres, that's no lock. Until they start winning, it'll likely stay that way.

Score goals. Win games. Sure, this move was the most likely of any this offseason.

Now comes the roster surgery. That's what will likely determine whether or not Botterill is around to cash in his ticket.

And while we watch this eight-year max deal play out, I only have one thing to figure out at the moment... I need a 2019-20 Skinner bet.

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