Dreger: Negotiations between the Sabres and Skinner are 'reaching a breaking point'

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Photo credit Photo: Eric Bolte - USA TODAY Sports

Time continues to tick away as contract negotiations between the Buffalo Sabres and soon-to-be free agent Jeff Skinner continue.

As of July 1, Skinner will officially become an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with any team that he chooses without any restrictions. On June 23, Skinner is eligible to start talking to teams and gauging a possible market of teams with interest in signing him to a contract.

According to multiple reports over the last couple of weeks, talks between both sides continue to remain positive with the hopes that an extension can be signed before the start of free agency. However, TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie reported on Thursday that negotiations are starting to come down to crunch time, and that he will either sign an extension with the Sabres in the next couple of days or decide to test the free agent market.

A week later than perhaps I expected, but it sounds like the Jeff Skinner contract negotiations are down to crunch time. My sense is he’ll either get a deal done in the next day or two or head off to UFA. If it gets done, I’d presume it to be 8 years at around $9M AAV.

— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 6, 2019

Fellow TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger joined Craig Rivet, Martin Biron and Brian Gionta on The Instigators on Friday for his weekly visit on WGR. He gave the latest update on the Skinner contract negotiations, as well as other topics from around the NHL.

Here is what he had to say:


Dreger on the current status of contract negotiations between the Sabres and Skinner:

"It feels like it's reaching a breaking point, and that could be [Friday>, it could be [Saturday>, but it's in the next day or couple or a few days. By breaking point, I think the player has made it pretty clear that he's got a number in mind. My sense tells me that that number is around $9 million annual average salary. The Buffalo Sabres all along, I believe, have wanted to keep that average annual salary in the [$8 million range>. Is it a case of where Jason Botterill is drawing a line in the sand and maybe calling the bluff of the player in this case."

"Jeff Skinner has leverage, of course. He's a pending unrestricted free agent, and there are a number of teams that are looking for the offense that he can provide. The Buffalo Sabres were starving for offense, so Skinner arrives on the scene, he finds magic, he finds chemistry, and that matters to both him and the Buffalo Sabres. I think if it's not [Friday>, maybe it's [Saturday>. It's going to be really interesting."

"I'd like to say that that I feel like the situation is leaning in favor of Buffalo getting a deal done, but I'm not so sure right now. But information could break in the hours ahead here."


Dreger on Buffalo's side of the negotiations with Skinner:

"I think that Buffalo has reached that point where they feel they've gone as far as they can go. That extra year 100-percent matters. I remember when John Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as an unrestricted free agent, there were some around Tavares that were a little miffed that maybe they didn't push to get a trade done from the [New York> Islanders to the Toronto Maple Leafs so that they could tag on an extra year. That eighth year 100-percent matters, and that could be where Buffalo is sitting. 'We're giving you that extra year, so you have got to give back a little bit here on the annual average salary."

There's a reason or a couple of reasons as to why this deal isn't done, but again, my sense is that the negotiation is basically over and now it might be up to Jeff Skinner to make a decision."


Dreger on Newport Sports' role in negotiations for Skinner:

"Keep in mind that Newport Sports is one of the best in the business negotiating deals of this magnitude. If you look at the history of the players of significance where Newport has managed and negotiated terms of the extension, normally you're looking at very signing bonus-heavy contracts. I don't know this, but I'm going to go out on assumption that that's likely what the Skinner contract is going to look like, and I'm sure there will be some form of no-move or trade protection that kicks in at some point, if not throughout the deal."


You can listen to the entire interview below: