BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres have interviewed at least six general manager candidates in the first phase of a search process that is not yet completed.
One person with direct knowledge of the team’s search provided a list of candidates already interviewed to The Associated Press on Monday. The same person and another person with direct knowledge of the situation told The AP that the team is not yet close to reaching a decision because more candidates are scheduled to be interviewed.
The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team is not publicly discussing its search to replace general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma, who were fired last month.
One person said the Sabres have interviewed two Pittsburgh Penguins executives, associate general manager Jason Botterill and assistant GM Bill Guerin. They have also interviewed four other assistant general managers: Columbus Blue Jackets Bill Zito, Nashville Predators Paul Fenton, New Jersey Devils Tom Fitzgerald and Los Angeles Kings Michael Futa. Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Kyle Dubas has not been interviewed, despite his name surfacing in media reports as a potential candidate, that person said.
The people did not reveal who or how many more candidates are being considered, or provide a timetable on the search in clarifying comments made by Sabres owner Terry Pegula on Sunday.
Without going into detail, Pegula said the Sabres were "close … to having the final answer," during a news conference announcing the firing of NFL Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley and the team’s entire scouting staff. Pegula and his wife, Kim, own the Bills and Sabres.
Both franchises are in the midst of front-office overhauls after disappointing finishes. The Bills also changed coaches with Sean McDermott hired in January to replace Rex Ryan, who was fired in the final week of last season.
Pegula hit the Sabres’ reset button on April 20, some 10 days after Buffalo finished last in Atlantic Division and extended its franchise-worst playoff drought to six seasons.
With a 33-37-12 record, Buffalo finished with two fewer wins and three fewer points than the previous season. That was not the expectation for a youth-laden franchise that was supposed to be on an upward trajectory with young forwards Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly, and high-priced off-season free agent addition, forward Kyle Okposo.
Pegula criticized the Sabres previous management structure for lacking in structure and discipline. He also said he was seeking to hire someone with previous experience.
None of the six candidates interviewed so far have been GMs at the NHL level.
Botterill was a candidate during the Sabres’ last GM search, when former team president Pat LaFontaine hired Murray in January 2014. Botterill also has previous ties to Buffalo as a player.
He played 38 games with the Sabres over the 2003-04 seasons, and closed his career the following season in Rochester, Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate.
Zito is a former NHL player agent, who was hired by the Blue Jackets’ front-office in 2013.
Futa has spent the past 11 seasons with the Kings, and was promoted to assistant GM’s post last month, when Rob Blake took over as general manager after Dean Lombardi was fired.