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With Sabres 'close' to hiring, here's look at candidates

Kim Pegula said the Sabres’ hiring search would go into this week. It may not last the whole week.

“We’re close on the Sabres to having a final answer,” owner Terry Pegula said Sunday.

Buffalo has interviewed at least seven people to lead its hockey department, based on reports by The Buffalo News, Sportsnet, TSN and others. Here is a closer look at the candidates: Jason Botterill of Pittsburgh, Craig Conroy of Calgary, Paul Fenton of Nashville, Tom Fitzgerald of New Jersey, Mike Futa of Los Angeles, Bill Guerin of Pittsburgh and Bill Zito of Columbus.

Jason Botterill (Getty Images)

* Jason Botterill: The 40-year-old is in his 10th season with the Penguins, including his third as associate general manager. Pittsburgh dubs him a “key architect” of the 2009 and 2016 Stanley Cup-winning teams. Botterill assists GM Jim Rutherford on all hockey-related matters, including scouting, player development, contract negotiations and salary cap management.

As GM for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Botterill hired Mike Sullivan in 2015 to coach the Penguins’ minor-league team. The organization quickly promoted Sullivan to the big club. He coached Pittsburgh to last year’s title and has the team two victories away from the Eastern Conference finals.

Botterill, an Edmonton native, spent five years as the Penguins’ assistant GM and two years as the team’s director of hockey administration. He previously worked for NHL Central Registry and as a scout for Dallas.

Botterill has a master’s degree in business from Michigan, where he played for four seasons. The forward played in the Sabres’ organization from 2002 to 2005.

Craig Conroy, right. (Getty Images)

* Craig Conroy: The 45-year-old is in his seventh season with Calgary, including his third as assistant general manager. He joined the Flames in 2011 as a special assistant to the GM.

The Potsdam native and Clarkson graduate played 1,009 games in the NHL. He was a two-time finalist for the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward and also was nominated for the Lady Byng as most gentlemanly player. He has been honored by Calgary for his charitable efforts.

Conroy helped the Flames advance to the 2004 Cup finals, where they lost to Tampa Bay in seven games.

Paul Fenton (Getty Images)

* Paul Fenton: The 57-year-old is in 19th season with Nashville, including his 11th as assistant GM. He was the Predators’ director of player personnel for their opening eight seasons before a promotion to his current role in 2006.

He was a candidate when the Sabres hired Tim Murray as their GM in 2014.

Fenton oversees amateur player development, manages the pro and amateur scouting staffs, and advises GM David Poile on player personnel decisions. He is the GM for the Milwaukee Admirals, who made the American Hockey League playoffs every year from 2003 to 2014.

Fenton was the director of player personnel for Team North America at last year’s World Cup of Hockey. He also served as the associate GM for USA Hockey’s world championship team in 2011. He spent five seasons as a scout in Anaheim before joining the Preds.

The Massachusetts native played parts of eight seasons as a forward in the NHL.

Tom Fitzgerald, center. (Getty Images)

* Tom Fitzgerald: The 48-year-old is in his second season as the Devils’ assistant GM. The Sabres drafted his son, Casey, last year.

The Penguins hired Fitzgerald in 2007 as their director of player development. He went behind the bench as coach Dan Bylsma’s assistant in 2009 and helped lead the Pens to the Stanley Cup. Fitzgerald spent five years as assistant to the general manager before a promotion to assistant GM in 2014. He followed GM Ray Shero to the Devils in 2015.

“Fitzie’s done a great job for us,” Shero said this weekend. “He’s done everything from run the farm team to our development, helping with our amateur and pro staff.

“He’s played over 1,000 games in the league, and that’s 1,000 more than I’ve played. He has a different perspective than me, and that’s helpful.”

The Massachusetts native played 17 seasons in the NHL, including an appearance in the Stanley Cup finals with Florida in 1996.

Michael Futa (Getty Images)

* Michael Futa: The 49-year-old is in his 10th season with Los Angeles and was named assistant general manager last month after the firing of GM Dean Lombardi. Futa spent the past three seasons as vice president of hockey operations and director of player personnel.

He also was a candidate when the Sabres went with Murray.

The Kings hired Futa in 2007 as director of amateur scouting. He spent the previous five years as general manager of Owen Sound in the Ontario Hockey League. The Attack reached the playoffs in all five of his seasons, and he was named OHL Executive of the Year in 2005. He has also served as assistant GM and assistant coach of the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.

The Toronto native played professionally in Europe after attending York University.

Bill Guerin, with Cup. (Getty Images)

* Bill Guerin: The 46-year-old is in his third season as the Penguins’ assistant GM. He serves as a liaison between players and management, which could help his case because Terry Pegula said communication needs to improve in Buffalo.

Guerin was the Penguins’ player development coach from 2011 until 2014. He played 18 seasons in the NHL, winning the Cup in 1995 with New Jersey and 2009 with the Penguins. The Massachusetts native is a member of the USA Hockey Hall of Fame.

Bill Zito

* Bill Zito: The 52-year-old is in his fourth season as the Blue Jackets’ assistant GM. He assists in contract negotiations, scouting and player evaluation, salary cap management and budgeting.

Zito is GM of Cleveland Monsters, who won the American Hockey League title last season. He was also a member of the management team for USA Hockey’s bronze-medal squad at the 2015 world championships.

Before getting into management, he helped found Acme World Sports, one of the leading hockey agencies. In 2007, the Hockey News put Zito in their “genius issue” for his scouting prowess and ability to get contracts for late-round or undrafted players.

The Pittsburgh native played hockey for Yale in the mid-1980s and has a law degree from Wisconsin.

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