The Sabres seem set at the top of their hierarchy. Tim Murray has been general manager for less than two years. Coach Dan Bylsma came aboard in May. Russ Brandon assumed the presidency in July.
But whenever the time comes for Buffalo to look elsewhere for replacements, the organization won’t have to give up draft picks for a new hire.
The NHL is abolishing the year-old rule that required clubs to give up draft picks in order to hire coaches or executives under contract with other teams. The Sabres had to give Pittsburgh a 2016 third-round pick because Bylsma was still being paid by the Penguins.
There was a backlash that clubs were violating the intent of the rule by requiring compensation for fired employees, so Commissioner Gary Bettman put an end to the bickering.
“One of the caveats that I put into place when I agreed to implement the revised policy was that if there are any problems with this we will scrap it and go back to what we had,” Bettman told reporters at this week’s board of governors meeting in California. “We deferred to the will of the GMs for a year. We tried it, and I think we were better off with the policy we had.
“I asked if there was any discussion or comment before I announced that that was the decision I was going to make, and there was none.”
Starting Jan. 1, clubs wishing to hire someone from an organization will need to get permission. If permission is granted, no compensation will be issued. If permission is not granted, teams must look elsewhere for candidates.
“If the two parties actually make a deal then the executive is free to go, but there is no compensation,” Bettman said.
The abolition of the rule, which had been in place only since Jan. 1, was one of the few concrete decisions made as the governors met in Pebble Beach, Calif. While expansion was discussed, there was no vote taken or timeline established.
“Will they do that in the foreseeable future? Yes,” Bettman said. “Will it be in the next couple of weeks or the next couple of months? Maybe, but we haven’t set a date for the next meeting.”
Las Vegas and Quebec City are the only cities that have applied for expansion teams. Bettman said it was “categorically untrue” that the NHL was waiting to see if Seattle was interested.
The commissioner said it was still possible for the league to expand in time for the 2017-18 season, but there are many hurdles to overcome.
“What will be the terms of an expansion draft?” Bettman said. “What would be the terms of an expansion draft if it were one or two teams? What will be the role or the position in the entry draft? And within that there are a lot of sub-issues that have to be addressed in terms of not only the terms, how many can you protect, how many do you have to draft, how does the salary cap implicate all that?
“There are a number of these things. That’s after you get past the point do we want to expand? Are these the right markets? Are these the right applicants? Are we comfortable with the arena? I mean, the list goes on and on. It’s an important, significant business decision, and it’s being treated in a businesslike way.”
In other news from the meetings:
• Two organizations often discussed for relocation – the Arizona Coyotes and Florida Panthers – solidified their standing in their current homes.
Lawmakers in Broward County, Fla., voted to give the Panthers an $86 million aid package and reworked the team’s lease with the arena to run until 2028.
“We are humbled and appreciative of the support from Broward County,” Panthers owner Vinnie Viola said. “As we have repeatedly stated, the Florida Panthers are committed to Broward County and South Florida.”
Arizona co-owner Anthony Leblanc said the Coyotes’ only move would be to Phoenix from the suburb of Glendale.
“We’re in very progressed talks with the city of Phoenix and as well we forged a tight alliance with Arizona State University and we’re having discussions with them about the potential for a facility,” Leblanc said from the meetings, according to NHL.com. “We’re exploring those pretty aggressively.”
• Bettman said next year’s salary cap could rise up to $3 million. Bettman said the range is a “very, very, very rough projection” and will be based on several factors, including the falling Canadian dollar. The cap is set at $71.4 million this season, with a floor of $52.8 million.
• Bettman declined comment on a lawsuit filed against the NHL this week by the estate of former Sabres defenseman Steve Montador. He died in February at age 35, and an autopsy showed Montador suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain condition that can be caused by repetitive brain trauma.
The lawsuit alleges that the NHL has collected data on head trauma in its sport as far back as 1997 but failed to warn the players of the consequences.
“The NHL continues to ignore the lasting problems caused by multiple head traumas suffered by its players,” Paul Montador, the father of the defenseman, said in a statement. “Tragedies like that of my son Steven will continue until the problem is addressed.
“Steve wanted to see some things change for the good of current and future players. He did not want to be the face of this initiative, but it seems to be turning out that way. The Montador family is pursuing the initiative as it was his wish.”