3 NHL buyout candidates the St. Louis Blues must keep an eye on

The St. Louis Blues could remain on the cusp of returning to the playoffs in the 2024-25 season, and signing an NHL buyout candidate could be the way to go.
Nov 30, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner (53) controls the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 30, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Buffalo Sabres left wing Jeff Skinner (53) controls the puck against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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Jeff Skinner would immediately upgrade the Blues scoring

You can make all the claims you want about Jeff Skinner’s contract, but if the last three seasons serve as any indicator, Skinner has moved past a deal that many scoffed at following a pair of awful seasons after he signed it. Yeah, 21 goals and 37 points in 112 contests would be enough to say, in hindsight, it was one of the worst contract signings of the 21st century, if not longer, but the previous three years have told a different tale. 

Between 2021-22 and 2023-24, Skinner landed 191 points and 92 goals in 233 games, which may lead you to ask why the Buffalo Sabres may even think buying out his deal is a good idea. For one, Skinner is heading into his age-32 season, so he wouldn’t fit into this team’s long-term plans to the same degree as some of the prospects who are more than NHL-ready. 

Then-18-year-old Zach Benson played in Buffalo all season, and he looks like a front-runner to play winger on the top-six, but there’s also Tage Thompson, Alex Tuch, Dylan Cozens, Jack Quinn, and JJ Peterka, all of whom are younger and also have the potential to stick around much longer - Tage and Cozens are already signed to long-term deals. 

It would also be a cost-cutting measure for the Sabres as they, even with a buyout of a contract that large, would still save money, allowing them to allocate the funds to sign someone like JJ Peterka or goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to a long-term deal. 

Should a buyout occur and Skinner wound up in Gateway City, the Blues would get a solid forward who would upgrade their scoring units quickly. While Skinner’s presence would keep the overall roster from getting younger, this team is still playoff-caliber, and Skinner would bring them closer to a postseason return. 

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