BUFFALO, N.Y. — Though a deal has not been completed, Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock had negotiations with the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday regarding the possibility of becoming their next head coach.
The talks took place between Babcock and Sabres general manager Tim Murray and began early in the day, a person familiar with discussions told The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks are private and the Sabres have not publicly discussed their coaching search to replace Ted Nolan, who was fired last month.
The person stressed there were still a “few more deal points” to work out, and added there was no agreement yet in place. Murray spent part of the afternoon in meetings with team scouts.
Babcock is still under contract with the Red Wings through June 30. The Red Wings, however, granted Babcock permission to speak with other teams. He visited Buffalo and met with Murray and Sabres owner Terry Pegula on May 10.
Babcock has not ruled out staying put in Detroit, and noted his family enjoys living there.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Babcock has not yet made a decision when asked if he was leaving the Red Wings.
Babcock responded with a text message that read, “Not sure, know by morning,” the newspaper reported in a story published online.
The most recent talks with the Sabres took place on the same day Babcock was scheduled to meet with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. The two spent the past week together attending the World Hockey championships in the Czech Republic.
Babcock also wanted to discuss his decision with his family, which has enjoyed living in Detroit.
The 52-year-old is one of the NHL’s most accomplished active coaches after spending the past 10 seasons in Detroit. The Red Wings have not missed the playoffs under Babcock, and they won the Stanley Cup championship in 2008.
Teams interested in interviewing Babcock had to agree to give up a third-round draft pick within the next three years as compensation to the Red Wings if they hire the coach.
The Sabres are in the midst of a top-to-bottom overhaul after finishing last in each of the past two seasons. In that time, Buffalo has begun stockpiling young prospects and draft picks in order to build through youth.
Centre Sam Reinhart, who was selected second in last year’s draft, is expected to compete for a job in Buffalo next season. The Sabres have the No. 2 pick again in the draft next month, when they are expected to select highly regarded Boston University centre Jack Eichel. Last season, Eichel became only the second freshman to win college hockey’s top honour, the Hobey Baker Award.
In Buffalo, Babcock has a previous connection with Murray. The two worked in Anaheim together when Babcock served as the Ducks coach form 2002-04.
Pegula has deep pockets. He and wife Kim also own the NFL Buffalo Bills, and made a big splash in January when they hired Rex Ryan to take over as coach.
Babcock was the first coach to win at least 50 games in each of his first four seasons with an NHL team — a deceiving stat in the shootout era but an impressive one nonetheless — when he did it with the Red Wings. With 458 wins for Detroit, he ranks No. 1 on the franchise’s career list, ahead of luminaries like Bowman and Jack Adams.
In addition to his NHL success, Babcock led his native Canada to gold medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. When he won Olympic gold at Vancouver in 2010, he became the first coach to win an Olympic gold medal, the Stanley Cup title and an International Ice Hockey Federation world championship.
Babcock could have gone on the market after the 2010-11 season. Instead, he signed a four-year extension with the Red Wings early that season, saying “the grass isn’t always greener.”