In a surprising shift of culture, the Buffalo Sabres organization revamped last week by hiring former great Pat Lafontaine as director of hockey operations, and Ted Nolan as head coach. After a 17-year reign, Darcy Regier was relieved of his duties as general manager, creating a void at the position. Lafontaine is actively seeking a replacement for Regier, and some potential candidates’ names keep surfacing.
According to Glen Healy of Hockey Night in Canada, Lafontaine has narrowed his search down to four current assistant GMs from around the league. The names Healy revealed are: Jim Benning – Boston Bruins, Rick Dudley – Montreal Canadiens, Paul Fenton – Nashville Predators, and Jason Botterill – Pittsburgh Penguins. Read full update here, courtesy of CBC.
Larry Brooks of the New York Post wrote a column declaring why former New York Rangers general manager Neil Smith deserves a shot at the job in Buffalo. Brooks cited Smith’s track record of success, and history with both Lafontaine and Nolan as major reasons why he belongs in the mix for the managerial role. Read full article by Larry Brooks of the New York Post here.
Whoever is eventually hired has big shoes to fill replacing Regier, who has managed to pull off some fairly strong trades while rebuilding the Sabres. Former captain Jason Pominville and sniper Thomas Vanek were both moved for significant assets under Darcy’s watch. The new GM will be tasked with orchestrating a good trade involving goaltender Ryan Miller who becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. A Regier-like return is essential when Miller is finally shipped out of Buffalo.
Trading Miller will be tricky business for the new GM. Sure, the American netminder is one of the best in the business, but finding a suitor may be trying. If you think about it, several NHL teams are happy with their current goaltending scenarios, thus, the pool of potential trade partners will likely be small. Miller’s status as a pending UFA doesn’t help either. How much will be paid for a goaltender who might walk away from his new team after this season?
Chances are a team gets desperate due to poor goaltending or a lengthy injury to a starting goalie and Miller is had for something nice. How nice the return depends greatly on the new GM’s ability to negotiate a good deal for his club.