CHICAGO – Jason Botterill wants to add to his management staff. Phil Housley needs to add to his coaching staff.
Both are working toward doing so. The Sabres’ new general manager and coach are interviewing candidates.
“The general manager for the Amerks will be someone who’s an assistant general manager that we bring into the organization, very similar to what my role was down in Pittsburgh,” Botterill said Friday. “I was the assistant general manager, but general manager of Wilkes-Barre.”
A leading candidate for assistant GM is Randy Sexton, with TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reporting Friday that the move is expected. Sexton is in his second season as the Penguins’ director of amateur scouting. He previously served as GM for Florida and Ottawa.
Housley, meanwhile, needs to hire assistant coaches. Holdovers Bob Woods, Terry Murray and Tom Ward are not being retained, with Woods already finding work with the Minnesota Wild. One candidate to join Housley, former Islanders coach Jack Capuano, has been hired as an assistant for Florida.
The Sabres also need a coach for the Amerks after electing not to keep Dan Lambert.
“We have talked to different candidates for Rochester,” Botterill said. “Phil with the coaches’ meetings and everything going on this week has been doing a ton of interviews from the assistant coaching standpoint, and interviewed our previous staff members, too, to see what sort of the best fit is.
“We’ll get through the draft here, then hopefully make some decisions next week.”
Buffalo would like to retain goaltending coach Andrew Allen, but nothing is official.
“We’re very excited about Andrew,” Botterill said. “My plan has always been to work with Andrew, but that’s a scenario where Phil and I still have to make a final decision.”
Nathan Beaulieu and Evander Kane fit the aggressive style of hockey Housley wants to play. One definitely will. The jury is still out on the other.
Botterill is excited about the trade he made last weekend to acquire Beaulieu from Montreal for a third-round pick.
“He’s a player that certainly wants to play the way Phil wants to have the team play,” Botterill said. “He can get up the ice. He competes hard, is aggressive all over the ice.
“It’s been no secret we’ve looked to try to add depth to our defense corps, and we’re very excited about bringing Nathan into the group.”
Kane remains the Sabres’ wild card. Buffalo’s best goal scorer has one year left on his contract. The Sabres need to weigh whether he's a long-term piece or should be moved for other assets.
“We’re always looking at different ways to improve our team, but Evander, Phil Housley’s had some great conversations with Evander already,” Botterill said. “We know how talented of a player he certainly is. From a scoring aspect I think it was 25 even-strength goals last year. How we want to play, he can certainly be a force.
“Our dialogue and interaction with Evander has been positive so far, and we’ll see where it goes.”
The Sabres lost one speedy player this week when Vegas General Manager George McPhee selected William Carrier in the expansion draft. The Golden Knights also got a sixth-round pick to stay away from certain players.
“I had very good conversations with George throughout the entire process, talking about different scenarios,” Botterill said. “I certainly did not want to lose Will, a young player who brought energy and we wanted to continue to develop, but it’s an expansion draft. You’re going to lose a good player.
“It was a scenario where after the conversations I thought it was worth putting in a sixth-round pick to protect some other players on our roster. Overall, we were happy with how the expansion process went.”
One of the protected players was goaltender Linus Ullmark, who recently signed a two-year deal after being the workhorse in Rochester.
“He was one of the players that we certainly wanted to keep from a depth perspective,” Botterill said. “We want to strengthen our goaltending throughout our entire organization. He’s a player that I have to continue to get familiar with, but our staff here is very excited about him.”
Terry Pegula proved that an NCAA hockey program can go from zero to No. 1 in a short amount of time. The NHL and it players’ association took notice.
They want to see if it can happen throughout the United States.
The league and its players have announced a project to support the growth of NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey programs. They’ll fund and promote feasibility studies, which will explore the potential of getting D-I college hockey programs throughout the country.
“I find it interesting that NCAA hockey growth can lead in two places: a hockey career or a career in business,” Pegula said Friday in United Center. “We in the NHL, we’re all proud to support NCAA hockey.”
Few have supported it like Pegula. He and his wife, Kim, donated more than $100 million to start hockey at Penn State. The Nittany Lions took the ice in 2013, and they were ranked first in the nation this season.
“It’s very important to point out that Terry was a groundbreaker here,” said Mathieu Schneider, the NHLPA’s special assistant to the executive director. “Maybe if not for the great success of his program, we wouldn’t be having this conversation here.”
The first feasibility study will be conducted for the University of Illinois. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that one will eventually be done for the University at Buffalo.
As the number of schools increases, the sides will point back to Pegula as a catalyst for growth.
“He is the name that always pops up as an example, an illuminating, shining star on what can happen and what all of this potential means,” said Chicago Blackhawks President John McDonough.