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One year in, Jason Botterill's defining moments as Sabres GM

Jason Botterill didn’t get to ease into his first year as Buffalo Sabres general manager. He hired a coach, locked up the franchise player, drafted a future cornerstone and won a lottery.

The only place where things were boring was on the ice.

Botterill, who is celebrating one year on the job Friday, will need to improve the hockey during his second year. While he plans his next moves, here's a look back at 10 defining moments from Botterill's first year in Buffalo.

1. Winning the NHL Draft Lottery

All Botterill had to do for his biggest moment was stand in a television studio and smile. The Sabres won the NHL Draft Lottery on April 28, and the team's outlook took a decided upswing.

If surefire No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin is as dynamic as advertised, it will be better than any trade or signing Botterill could have made. The team needs a puck-moving, goal-scoring defenseman, and the lottery balls dropped one into Botterill's lap.

2. Casey Mittelstadt

It was a whirlwind romance for the Sabres and their 2017 top draft pick. Botterill used the No. 8 overall selection on Mittelstadt, praising the center's speed and playmaking ability. People got to see it up close and from afar.

Mittelstadt took a break from his award-winning freshman season at the University to Minnesota to play in the World Juniors. The United States' top center shined in front of Sabres fans, who hoped Botterill would bring Mittelstadt to town for good.

The GM wasted little time, signing the 19-year-old in time for six games at the end of the season. Mittelstadt put up five points to show the potential Botterill saw on draft night.

3. Signing Jack Eichel

The Sabres dropped the entire 2014-15 season to make sure they got either Eichel or Connor McDavid. There was no way they'd let Eichel get free after all of that.

Two days before the start of the season, Botterill and Eichel's agents finalized an eight-year, $80 million contract extension. The face of the franchise is locked up until 2026 at $10 million per year.

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When the contract kicks in next season, Eichel will be tied for No. 5 in the NHL for highest salary cap hit. Botterill and owner Terry Pegula are paying the center to be a superstar, and Eichel's progression will help define the Sabres for a decade.

4. Hiring Phil Housley

The last-place season has dimmed some of the luster, but Housley was the marquee name on the coaching market last spring. Botterill pounced just hours after the Stanley Cup final, bringing in Nashville's highly regarded assistant.

As with Eichel, next season will be big for Botterill and his coach. They've learned how much work they have to do to make the Sabres a winner. It's unlikely Botterill will be able to shed all of the dead weight, so Housley will need to coach more out of the squad. He's vowed to put his mark on the team as soon as training camp opens.

5. Slamming the door

For the most part, Botterill has been the anti-Tim Murray. There are few grandiose statements in public, far fewer profanities yelled in the press box.

But Botterill hit his breaking point during a Saturday afternoon snoozer Feb. 17. Lack of skill is one thing. Lack of effort and not caring is another. The Sabres put forth another no-show against Los Angeles during a Kids' Day game, and Botterill bolted from his suite midway through with a wall-shaking, ear-popping slam of the door.

His disgust had reached its peak, and he entered this offseason saying "there has to be change, and there will be change."

Tired of talk, Sabres' Botterill demands action to become winner

6. Creating a hierarchy

Previous GMs Murray and Darcy Regier controlled every facet of hockey operations. Murray would at least encourage subordinates to challenge his way of thinking. Regier would issue proclamations that someone was assistant "to the" general manager and not assistant general manager. Either way, they ruled alone.

Botterill brought in help. At the end of June, he named Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley as assistant GMs. Greeley, who came from the New York Rangers, oversees pro scouting and player development. Sexton, who worked with Botterill in Pittsburgh, is GM of the Rochester Americans and leads the amateur scouting staff.

The Sabres have gotten grief for installing Kim Pegula as president rather than hiring a hockey czar, but the three GMs have a combined 31 years of managerial experience in the NHL.

7. Building up Rochester

Botterill and Sexton made the Amerks a priority. They signed American Hockey League performers on the opening day of free agency. They hired coach Chris Taylor to foster a competitive, family atmosphere.

The Amerks ended a three-year playoff drought. They were swept in the opening round, but Botterill hopes it's the beginning of a culture change.

8. The Evander Kane trade

The Sabres never talked contract extension with their most-talented and troubled left winger, so trading Kane was Botterill's top in-season priority. The GM sent Kane to San Jose in February, and the deal may not impact the Sabres for two to four years, if at all.

The Sabres received 24-year-old prospect Danny O'Regan, who has performed well in the AHL but hasn't yet shown much in the NHL. If Kane re-signs with San Jose, the Sabres will get a 2019 first-round pick. If not, it'll be a 2019 second-rounder. Either way, the player probably wouldn't arrive in Buffalo until 2021 or 2022.

San Jose will also give the Sabres a fourth-round pick in 2019 or a third-round pick in 2020.

9. Bargain shopping

Botterill signed Robin Lehner to a one-year, $4 million contract that ranked Lehner at No. 25 on the goaltending pay scale. That’s close to where Lehner performed, too, and the one-year contract makes it possible for Buffalo to move on.

Botterill also signed goalie Linus Ullmark to a two-year deal that pays $750,000 per season, forward Evan Rodrigues to a two-year contract averaging $650,000 and defenseman Casey Nelson to a two-year deal at $812,500 per year. If the young players continue their growth, those could be great deals.

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10. Swings and misses

Botterill installed 10 new faces on the opening-night roster. Buffalo promptly started 6-17-4 and became the first NHL team to ever finish in 31st place.

The trade and signing of Nathan Beaulieu became a disappointment. The professionalism of Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella, brought over from Minnesota, failed to rub off on teammates. Scott Wilson and Jordan Nolan, role players on Stanley Cup teams, didn't make an impact. Giving two-year deals to Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons likely keeps the underperformers in Buffalo for another season.

Although Botterill has been in Buffalo for one year, he's still got a lot of work to do during his second.

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