Hindsight is 20/20 For Everything… Except A Jeff Skinner Trade

Jan 14, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (52) goes out onto the ice before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Pyotr Kochetkov (52) goes out onto the ice before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

We have just moved past the 5 year anniversary of the (in)famous Jeff Skinner departure from Carolina. The star center was drafted in the first round, seventh overall in the 2010 draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. After 8 seasons in Carolina, he was sent to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Cliff Pu, a second round pick, third round pick, and a sixth round pick which the Canes used to acquire James Reimer. So, who one the trade? Five years later surely we should know by now, right?

Well, lets talk about it and see where we get. Jeff Skinner was a popular forward who was very productive for the Canes, but the results were seldom seen anywhere beyond the stat sheet. In his eight seasons in Raleigh, he finished top five in points and goals every season and won the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the year). In his eight seasons, the Hurricanes never saw postseason action. In his last season he posted a team worst and career low -27.

Because this, the fanbase was very divided. He was well liked, but changes had to be made after a ninth straight season without a playoff game for fans in the City of Oaks.

Buffalo welcomed him in with open arms but gave up a good bit to get him. Jeff Skinner welcomed the change of scenery and new beginning.

In his five seasons in Buffalo, He has had a positive +/- once. He has scored 30+ goals three of the five years, and just posted a career high 82 points and 47 assists in the 2022-2023 season. Kind of all over.

As mentioned, Carolina got a prospect and two draft picks. The prospect, Cliff Pu, never materialized. He was traded to Florida before ever seeing NHL action. He has yet to play in the NHL to this day.

With the 2019 second round pick, the Hurricanes selected Pyotr Kochetkov. In his 27 games he has played to date, PK boasts a 908 save percentage, 4 shutouts, and a 15-7 record. He is regarded as the future goaltender of the Hurricanes after Frederik Andersen and/or Antti Raanta depart. He is the second highest paid goaltender on the team, ahead of Antti Raanta.

With the 2020 third round pick, the Hurricanes selected Alexander Nikishin. Nikishin is currently under a three year contract in the KHL. This makes him eligible to play in the NHL in 2025. In the most recent season he had 44 assists and 55 points, with an additional four assists and as many goals in 16 games. While this pick may never materialize, if it does, Nikishin sounds promising. For that reason, this trade is still a little blurry when looking for a victor even five years later.

As mentioned, the Hurricanes had not made the postseason with Jeff Skinner. Since then, they haven’t missed the playoffs. Skinner has yet to reach the postseason in any year of his career.

However when looking at who won, there are really three things to look at. Was it a win for the Hurricanes, the Sabres, and Jeff Skinner himself?

Jeff Skinner has made a name for himself in Buffalo, having a career year last year. Carolina was never in contract talks with Skinner, who was set to be a free agent after the 2018-2019 season. He was able to go somewhere he was more needed and get the playing time he wanted. In that, it was a win for Jeff.

When comparing teams, the Sabres acquired a star forward that has been a top five in points three of the five years. While they haven’t made it to the playoffs, they have built off his success having the most wins and points for the franchise since 2009-2010. I wouldn’t call that a win. The immediate Jeff Skinner impact has come and gone and they still have not had a postseason birth.

Lastly, the Hurricanes cleared up nearly 6 million in cap space with his departure. This allowed them to pickup Nino Niederreiter from the Minnesota Wild. They also acquired a star goalie in Reimer eventually with that sixth round draft pick. All that plus Kochetkov. I would call all of that a win for the Hurricanes if Kochetkov develops into the goaltender the Caniacs think he will, and early signs point that way. I would call it a dominant win if Nikishin comes to the NHL and is the player he has been rumored to be.

But, that is a lot of ifs for the Hurricanes. If PK is a bust and Nikishin never plays in the NHL, the Hurricanes are pretty empty handed on that trade. Guess we need to revisit in another few years. Maybe by 2025-26 it will be in 20/20.