Could Jeff Skinner be a good fit for the Colorado Avalanche?

Here are some reasons why the Colorado Avalanche should sign Jeff Skinner.
Buffalo Sabres v Seattle Kraken
Buffalo Sabres v Seattle Kraken / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

The Colorado Avalanche are currently in a bit of a cap-crunch. With the uncertainty surrounding key pieces of the roster like Captain Gabriel Landeskog and suspended star Valeri Nichushkin, options seem limited. With no easy answers in sight, the club will have be both creative and persuasive in how they navigate negotiations.

The front office has been quite clear that they would like to re-sign Jonathan Drouin. But for a guy who signed a league minimum deal last year, and proceeded to post a career-best in points, finding the right numbers on an extension will be difficult. It is also widely known that Drouin loves playing with the Avalanche, and particularly, with his good friend Nathan MacKinnon. Still, it would seem unfair to assume too much about Drouin's willingness to take a discount.

Players take those minimum single-season deals for a few reasons, and Drouin was able to successfully revitalize his career in Colorado. Drouin could be looking at a significant payday that would be too hard to pass up.

There has already been some buzz about the Avalanche moving pieces to clear space for a Drouin deal. Ross Colton was rumored to be on the trading block last week. He obviously wasn't moved during the draft this weekend, and MHS has already made the case that trading Colton may be a mistake. The Rolling 20's line was just begging to cook last season when Logan O'Conner went down.

Jeff Skinner could be a good replacement for Jonathan Drouin

So, if the Avalanche do lose out on retaining Jonathan Drouin how do they respond? Signing a freshly bought-out Jeff Skinner might be a masterful move by GM Chris MacFarland. Jeff Skinner is 32, but still a highly efficient goal-scorer at this stage of his career. Thanks to the buyout, Skinner is not going to be hurting salary-wise anytime soon.

It would certainly be a different scenario than the Drouin deal last year if Skinner is willing to join the Avalanche for a cheap short-term contract. But beyond the chance to chase a Stanley Cup, there may be more in it for Skinner. Once upon a time, Jeff Skinner was line-mates and roommates with Gabriel Landeskog. This was while they played in the Ontario Hockey League for the Kitchener Rangers.

The strength of that friendship might not be as lasting as Drouin and MacKinnon but there is still likely some remembered chemistry on-ice that might click. During the 2009-2010 season, while they were paired up, Skinner led the team with 50 goals. Junior Hockey or not, those numbers are the kind that helped both get drafted into the NHL.

Jeff Skinner is coming off a down year in which he tallied just 46 points. But throughout his career he has often been much better than that. Skinner began his career in Carolina, winning the Calder Trophy in 2011. At the time, he was the youngest ever to win NHL's Rookie of the Year honor. His old buddy Gabe would take the trophy the next year in 2012, and Nathan MacKinnon would do so a few years later in 2014, also snagging that youngest-ever distinction.

Skinner has remained a pretty consistent scoring threat throughout his career. He has tallied over 30 goals six times. If you are worried about his age, consider his best statistical year was 2022-23. He scored 35 and added 47 assists, totaling 82 points for the Sabres the year before last. Playing alongside a higher caliber of team should help lift his game.

Another motivating factor that should make Colorado attractive to Skinner is the chance to play meaningful hockey and chase a championship. Despite having played in 1,006 NHL games, none of those have been in the playoffs. I'm sure that Casey Mittelstadt, who played with Skinner in Buffalo for years, can help pitch the move.

After all, Mittelstadt's new deal keeps him in Colorado for three more seasons. The idea that the Avalanche have finally solved their 2C problem is one reason to already be excited about the offseason. The possibility of giving Mittelstadt a familiar wing in Skinner also makes a ton of sense in my opinion. If Landeskog is able to return, slotting him opposite Skinner could give that dream-line major firepower.

Maybe watching Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo lift the Cup with Florida will help make Jeff Skinner hungry enough to come to a legit contender regardless of price. I mentioned in my season reflections piece that the Avalanche would still make sense for a veteran who wants to win now. Why shouldn't Skinner be that guy?

Obviously a lot has to happen for this scenario to come to fruition. In a perfect world it might not necessarily mean that Drouin doesn't return. However, if he does take a deal elsewhere and Skinner comes to Denver, I'd be hard pressed not to see it as an upgrade on paper. If the Avalanche lose Drouin, I know it's going to hurt emotionally.

A second set of old friends being reunited in Colorado might be the best way to take the sting out of a tough reality for sentimental fans like myself. Who knows what intangible effect it might have on Gabriel Landeskog as he works toward his own return? I know for sure it would instantly be a feel-good story inside and outside the organization.