The Canes' Jeff Skinner is back in town, eager to get started, liking the new look of the team, hoping for a quick -- and equitable -- resolution on a new CBA.
"Everyone wants to get going as soon as possible," Skinner said today after his first informal skate at Raleigh Center Ice.
At the same time, Skinner realizes the need for player unity, for standing together and standing tall behind NHLPA executive director Don Fehr during the CBA negotiations. If there's a lockout, so be it.
"I've been to a few (NHLPA) meetings and I know the (player) reps have been talking about how good it is how many players have been participating and showing solidarity," Skinner said. "I think that's the message you need to send and I think we have to keep sending that.
"It's not a good situation, sitting and waiting around. You want to get a deal that's as fair as you can get, as soon as possible. I think that's what everyone wants."
After an almost-dreamlike rookie season in 2010-2011, when everything fell into place for him and he was the Calder Trophy winner, Skinner faced some adversity last season. He missed 16 games after an early December concussion and struggled to reclaim the hard-driving form that made him a 31-goal scorer his first season.
But the forward joined Team Canada for the 2012 IIHA World Championship not long after the Canes' season ended. He had three goals and two assists in the eight games, drawing praise from Canes coach Kirk Muller, an assistant coach for Canada.
Muller said Skinner "looked like the old Skins again." Which is?
"Just the confidence," Skinner said. "I felt better on the ice. When you can play with confidence it makes a big difference."
A lot happened other than the World Championship. The Canes traded for Jordan Staal. They signed free agents Alex Semin and Joe Corvo.
As for Skinner, he was in the news, too. In early August, he received a six-year contract extension worth $34.35 million that will keep him with the Canes at least through the 2018-2019 season.
Skinner again spent part of the summer in Toronto at Gary Roberts' conditioning camp. He said he's "just over" 200 pounds and believes he can play at that weight after being listed at 193 pounds last season.
In his first two years in the NHL, Skinner has missed the playoffs both times and ended up on Canada's roster for the World Championship. Good experience, but he'd rather experience Stanley Cup playoff games and believes the right moves have been made to make it happen.
"Obiously it was a big offseason for the organization," Skinner said. "Obviously there's a lot of excitement, not only around the team and organization and but in the city.
"There's not many things better than coming back and seeing all the guys after the summer time and getting these first couple of skates in. It's always an exciting time of year but then you add that extra excitement with what we've done in the offseason and it makes it all the more exciting on top of that."