Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray is meeting with ownership this week in what is a critical moment for the organization.
Terry Pegula purchased the team in Feb. 2011. They’ve failed to make the playoffs in every season since then. They’re on their fourth coach, Dan Bylsma, who like Murray has three years left on his contract. Bylsma’s is for $3 million per season.
The coach’s future with the Sabres was already in question given their middling results since he took over in 2015. But Paul Hamilton of WGR-AM 550 in Buffalo dropped a bomb at the end of his report on Wednesday, regarding the Sabres’ franchise player:
Inside sources have told me that Eichel has no desire to sign a contract extension this summer if Bylsma remains the coach, so quite a bit hinges on this meeting.
“No desire” is a rather strong way of putting it. Eichel is a restricted free agent in Summer 2018.
Bylsma wasn’t exactly given a strong vote of confidence at the end of the season from Murray. When asked if he could say Bylsma will be back next season, Murray said “I guess I can” while adding some nuance.
“As I say every day, when I get asked that question: He’s my coach today. I’m the general manager today. There’s going to be a review, top to bottom. I’m going to meet with ownership in Florida next week. I’m sure I’m going to be reviewed. I’m sure I’m being reviewed right now. As I should be,” he said.
As for Eichel, he was visibly angry at the end of another lost season for Buffalo. But as Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News notes, his attitude towards his coach – and this new report on his contract status – point to some level of petulance from a young star player:
Eichel has some growing up to do if he wants to be taken seriously as a leader. Leaders don’t undercut the coach as many times as Eichel has this season. Or make veiled comments about teammates, like Eichel clearly has about Josh Gorges more than once when referencing players who speak but don’t perform on the ice. Leaders don’t brood and pout in front of the media either like Eichel did to absurd levels Monday on locker cleanout day.
Maybe Eichel was upset at narrowly missing a $2 million performance bonus. Maybe he was miffed about the Sabres’ PR staff smartly asking him to meet the media at the interview room podium rather than form a mob scrum around his stall in the dressing room. Whatever. Deal with it. You’re the face of the franchise. This wasn’t a good face.
Nor is it a good look when a second-year player is trying to force ownership into making managerial choices. But let’s face it: If Jack wants Bylsma gone, Bylsma is gone. He’s winning that battle every time, with ownership and management and fans.
And hey, good news for Boston University coach David Quinn: Looks like his former player is trying to create a job opening for him.
UPDATE: Expected denial from Eichel’s agent.
#Sabres Eichel agent: "He is 100% on board" with an extension "assuming negotiations go well." Bylsma status "has nothing to do with it."
— Adam Benigni (@AdamBenigni) April 19, 2017
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