What we know about the next Buffalo Sabres general manager, under new director of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine: He will have won a Stanley Cup.
That’s what LaFontaine said on Wednesday, so we’ll take his word for it. Does that mean a Cup ring, or having built a Cup winner? Does that mean a front office star like Paul Fenton of the Nashville Predators is off his short list? (Hey, the players he scouted for the 2003 Mighty Ducks almost won a Cup, if that counts.)
What else does a candidate need? Ties to Buffalo, or course. At least that seems to be the M.O. of Terry Pegula, peddler of nostalgia.
So who might be on LaFontaine’s radar? The names being kicked around, and our odds for them getting the gig:
Rick Dudley (2/1)
Currently the assistant general manager for the Montreal Canadiens, Dudley’s name has been linked to the Sabres since well before LaFontaine arrived. He coached in Buffalo from 1989-1992. Along with Dale Tallon, he built the 2010 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, although he was the GM of the Atlanta Thrashers when that team finally won under Stan Bowman.
He’s seen as a superior talent evaluator, and the kind of veteran executive that could lend balance to a novice like LaFontaine, like he was for first-time GM Marc Bergevin in Montreal.
Maybe if he returns to Buffalo he can bring back this look. It was aces.
Jason Botterill (3/1)
The Sabres have already asked permission to speak with Botterill, the Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM and their capologist. From the Tribune Review:
Botterill, 37, is viewed as a rising star in management circles, mostly because of his handling of the salary cap with the Penguins. He owns a master's of business administration degree from Michigan and worked with NHL Central Registry before joining the Penguins in the 2007 offseason.
Botterill played for the Sabres, and Buffalo's upper management includes Ken Sawyer (senior adviser) and Ted Black (president). Sawyer and Black worked for the Penguins when Shero was hired after the 2005-06 season.
In addition to managing the cap and handling contract negotiations, Botterill manages the Penguins' hockey operations department. He also runs AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and assists on scouting.
Botterill, pictured here, played for the Sabres and has a Cup with the Penguins. Jackpot!
Neil Smith (5/1)
The man who ended a 54-year Cup drought for the New York Rangers is linked to LaFontaine through their brief time with the New York Islanders. Smith was hired in 2006 to take over the Isles; when Smith was fired just over a month into his GM job, LaFontaine resigned as an advisor as well, in protest.
Smith hasn’t gotten an NHL GM gig since, acting as an assistant in Dallas and getting a sniff in Florida before settling into a broadcasting career.
Smith likes to have control. Pegula said no man in the front office is an emperor. It probably doesn’t matter because he doesn’t have ties to Buffalo, of course …
Claude Loiselle (6/1)
Claude Loiselle is the assistant general manager and capologist for the Toronto Maple Leafs, hired under Brian Burke in 2010 and continuing on under Dave Nonis. He previously was the assistant GM with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He brings a player’s mentality to the front office, which is something we’re sure LaFontaine respects.
He doesn’t have any ties to Buffalo, but hey, he was a New York Islander just like Pat LaFontaine!
Bucky Gleason of the Buffalo News thinks he’s in the mix.
Jim Benning (10/1)
OK, so who the heck is Jim Benning?
He’s a Stanley Cup winner for the Boston Bruins, having helped build their 2011 team as assistant general manager. He’s heavily involved in player evaluation and transactions, for a front office that’s made some bold moves in his six years there.
He came to the Bruins after twelve seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization including eight seasons as that team's Director of Amateur Scouting. In that position, he oversaw the club's scouting staff and led the team at the annual NHL Entry Draft, in addition to scouting prospects at the high school, college and junior hockey levels as well as in Europe.
Cup ring, Sabres ties … Gleason sees him on the list, too.
Michael Peca (20/1)
Former Sabres goalie-turned-broadcaster Marty Biron opened some eyes on Wednesday when he listed Peca as a candidate for the Buffalo GM gig.
Peca might not be the first name to come to mind for an NHL job, but he’s been the GM for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres of the Ontario Junior Hockey League for the last two years, winning executive of the year in 2013. The team is owned by the Buffalo Sabres.
As much as LaFontaine and Ted Nolan were a nostalgic kick, Peca would be a nostalgia overdose. He’s one of the most popular players in franchise history and a former captain. He never won a Cup, but nearly won one with the 2006 Edmonton Oilers.
Mike Milbury (500/1)
Hey, he said Ron Rolston had to go before the Sabres fired him. Clearly he’s got a handle on this thing. Although LaFontaine is no doubt familiar with his Islanders work history.
Dominik Hasek (50,000/1)
Did we mention Ted Nolan is the interim head coach?