Sabres' Botterill never wavered in his belief that Skinner would remain a Sabre

The Sabres general manager now turns his attention the the draft, free agency and trades

Paul Hamilton
June 08, 2019 - 4:44 pm

Photo: Paul Hamilton (@pham1717)

Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - Jason Botterill kept having a very positive perspective throughout talks with Jeff Skinner. He always believed they’d come to an agreement and wasn’t afraid to say so. The Sabres GM said, “I think it’s my job to show optimism. I think when the organization wants a player and when a player demonstrates to the organization and says that he wants to be part of the solution, it’s my job to try to find a way to come to an agreement. I understand that’s not always going to happen.”  

Botterill knew it was going to be a long process to sign Skinner, but it always was a priority for him. He said there were reasons why he wanted that specific player to stay with the team, “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.

“The other element that gave us comfort in going to a deal with Jeff, is just how we fit in with our group. I thought he was a great influence on our young players. The relationship with some of our elite players such as Jack and Sam, but going out of his way to have an impact on Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt and just his professionalism off the ice.”

Skinner is 27-years-old, which means he’ll be 35 when the contract expires. Botterill isn’t too worried about that. “There’s always going to be risk sometimes in doing that, but we feel very comfortable in how Jeff handles himself off the ice, how he’s dedicated to conditioning and training and we think that attitude along with our sport science department will hopefully allow him to to be healthy and help the Buffalo Sabres in the next eight years.”

Fans are still hoping for a big splash in free agency on July 1, but that usually results in disaster. Botterill said they’ll talk to certain free agents, but there are better ways to do it, “I think our focus as we move forward here, we’ll certainly be active in talking to different players in free agency. We’ll see how that plays out. Our biggest focus I think heading into free agency was getting Jeff signed and we’ve accomplished that. We’ll continue to talk to see if there’s a fit to help out our team from that respect.

“I think sometimes a more realistic option is through trades, like we did last year with Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick and utilizing our cap space from that standpoint, or adding a player like Jeff Skinner like we did later on in the summer. So I think we’ll continue to look at both ways through both the trade route and free agency to see if we can improve our team.”

Many of you have heard me wonder on the air if some of the players that have done nothing but lose here in Buffalo need to be moved. That would include Rasmus Ristolainen, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson. I posed the question to Botterill if he takes that into account when thinking about trades or qualifying offers. He said, “That’s certainly a concern. What gives us hope it is a lot of these players have had success earlier in the careers in other situations and they at least do know how to win in those environments. Also, the thing that gives us as an organization hope is what materialized in November, December. I think they realize what can happen with the city when you have some success. I think what happened in the first half at least shows these guys that it can be accomplished. Now it’s the next step to do it over 82 games.”

Next week, we’ll be able to hear from Skinner himself when he comes to Buffalo to sign his deal.

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