Jeff Skinner had a no-trade clause in his contract.
But as Carolina Hurricanes president and general manager Don Waddell looked to move the veteran forward, he knew a deal with the Buffalo Sabres might be able to work.
"He was going to make the decision whether he goes or not," Waddell said in a conference call with reporters Thursday night.
The decision, apparently, was yes.
Skinner became a member of the Buffalo Sabres as the Hurricanes dealt him to Buffalo in exchange for forward Cliff Pu a 2019 second-round draft pick and a third- and sixth-round pick in 2020.
Skinner, 26 and a former NHL rookie of the year, has played all eight seasons with the Hurricanes, totaling 379 points (204 goals, 175 assists) in 579 career games. That's good enough for the 20th most goals in the NHL during that span, while tying for 10th at most even-strength goals with 159.
Last season, Skinner had 49 points (24 goals, 25 assists), topping the 20-goal mark for the third consecutive season.
But the Hurricanes have failed to make the playoffs the last nine seasons. And while that's not all on Skinner's shoulders, Waddell felt his team needed to make a change.
"You need goals from a lot of different areas," Waddell said. "If you just talk about one player with goal scoring, that might not be the best recipe to have success as a team. It's not about Jeff Skinner and us not willing but us feeling it was time to make a change.
"As for Jeff, I think he was looking for a fresh start, too," Waddell said. "He's going to a place where he gets to play with some good top-end players. He's a Toronto native. Buffalo was always high on his list. He earned that contract with the no-move. We have to abide by it. I felt the deal we could make with Buffalo was one we would accept."
And Buffalo is more than happy to have him.
Sabres general manager Jason Botterill noted in his conference call that Skinner had a "full no-trade" but decided to come to Buffalo. And that, he said, is how culture change begins to happen -- when players want to be here.
"Having more success means having players who are excited about being in your city. You see that with Rasmus Dahlin, with Jack (Eichel) making a commitment last year to Buffalo, and now seeing Jeff coming in here. We're excited. They want to be part of Buffalo and want to be part of things with the Sabres organization."
Botterill said there have been no discussions about a contract extension with Skinner scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2018-19 season, though took the enthusiasm to come to Buffalo as a positive sign a future deal could be done.
But the future is the future.
And Botterill thinks he made his club better in the present with the acquisition of Skinner. The forward brings things the Sabres need, from even-strength goals to modeling the desired work ethic for a group of talented young players.
Botterill is impressed with "how he handles himself off the ice, as a pro. He prepares himself extremely well. You look at his consistency the last couple of years and i'ts impressive. He has a consistent ability to create chances out there. Goal totals are going to go up and down but he creates chances at even strength."
Skinner, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft, was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent and the Hurricanes seemed content to keep him before a deal with the Sabres came together. Skinner had one year and $5.735 million remaining on his contract.
Pu, who recently signed his entry-level contract with the Sabres, scored 74 goals over the last two seasons in the Ontario Hockey League. He is likely targeted for the Hurricanes' American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte.