Canes sign Jeff Skinner to 6-year contract extension

CorrespondentAugust 9, 2012 

Still only 20 years old, Jeff Skinner didn’t anticipate that he and the Carolina Hurricanes would negotiate a contract extension this summer.

Even after two seasons in the NHL, Skinner had one year remaining on his rookie contract. Under the current collective bargaining agreement, Skinner was still under club control for five more years.

So there seemed to be time.

But after Carolina made news earlier this summer for its pursuit of forwards outside the organization – the Hurricanes traded for and signed Jordan Staal to a contract extension while also inking free agent forward Alexander Semin to a one-year deal worth $7 million – it turned its gaze inward in recent weeks.

The internal focus paid dividends Wednesday morning when the Hurricanes announced Skinner had agreed to a six-year contract extension that will kick in after Skinner’s rookie contract expires following the 2012-13 season.

The extension will pay Skinner a total of $34.35 million – $4.35 million in 2013-14 and $6 million in the five following seasons – for an average annual value of $5.725 million.

“I wasn’t going into this offseason expecting a deal or thinking about it, really,” Skinner said. “It just sort of happened pretty quickly in the last couple weeks. Now that it’s done and out of the way, it’s exciting to move on and focus on playing and being in Raleigh for six more years after next year.”

Even with the changes Carolina has made to its top two forward lines, Skinner figures to be as critical a part of the Hurricanes’ future as anyone.

As an 18-year-old during the 2010-11 season, Skinner scored 31 goals to win the NHL’s rookie of the year award. He was something of a sensation at the All-Star Game held in Raleigh that year as area fans paid him as much attention as some of the league’s more marquee players.

This past season wasn’t quite as magical for Skinner. While he scored 20 goals in 64 games, he suffered a concussion in a game against Edmonton in December. The aftereffects lingered well into the new year, and it wasn’t until March that Skinner said he felt like himself out on the ice.

Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said there was no concern about signing Skinner to an extension after last season’s concussion.

“His concussion is behind him,” Rutherford said. “He went through a period where it took a long time to recover, as concussions do. But near the end of the year, he was 100 percent. He went to the world championships – he played extremely well over there. …

“We always have concerns about players and the future, but that’s part of the risk that everybody takes when you sign long-term deals. But as for his past injuries, he’s 100 percent.”

As a member of the Canadian team, Skinner scored three goals and added two assists in the world championships, which were held in May in Helsinki, Finland. Media reports from the competition suggest that Skinner, the New York Islanders’ John Tavares and Edmonton’s Jordan Eberle formed Canada’s best line.

“I felt like I played well there,” Skinner said. “Coming off my injury, it’s always tough to come back in the middle of the season after taking that much time off. I think that getting that confidence back in the world championships – I think that’s probably the biggest part of it; I think I felt like I was playing with a bit more confidence.

“I hope I can continue that going into next year.”

With Skinner on board for the next seven seasons, Carolina has six forwards signed to long-term contracts: Skinner, Eric and Jordan Staal, Jiri Tlutsy, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu, who signed a four-year contract extension in February.

Rutherford said he hopes to sign Jeremy Welsh – the center who played collegiate hockey at Union College and played the final game of last season with the Hurricanes – to a new contract soon.

“A lot of our structure on the forwards – the majority of them – have made long-term commitments, so that’s good for us,” Rutherford said.

Like much of the hockey world, Skinner has taken note of the financial muscle the Hurricanes have flexed this summer.

While he didn’t think it would necessarily trickle – and since the dollar figure in this case is $34.35 million, flood is probably the more apt word – down to him, Skinner is excited about the possibilities it affords next season.

Skinner, after all, has yet to compete in the playoffs in his NHL career.

“There’s been a lot of big boosts from our organization this summer, and I think it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s exciting to see ownership and management making those kinds of moves. Hopefully it’s a sign that we can step up next season.”

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