The Buffalo Sabres search for a new general manager has concluded with Tim Murray, Ottawa Senators Assistant General Manager being named to the position by Pat LaFontaine, Thursday.
Murray got his start in the NHL as an amateur scout in the Red Wings and Panthers organization and seasoned his resume when he assumed the Director of Player Personnel position for the Anaheim Ducks from 2002-2005.
He worked in a scouting capacity for the Rangers from 2005-2007. In 2007, he united with his uncle Ottawa GM Bryan Murray to serve as the Senators Assistant GM and GM of the AHL affiliate Binghamton Senators, “It was a process to find the best fit for the Buffalo Sabres,” said LaFontaine, “That’s what we got.”
As a first time NHL general manager, Murray will be charged with the rejuvenation of a Sabres franchise that has been mired in mediocrity for the past three seasons. The team is currently toiling in the league basement with 28 points.
The Sabres also announced they have hired Craig Patrick to serve as a special assistant and advisor to the hockey department. Patrick has experience as the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, he also was the assistant general manager of the famed 1980 U.S. Olympic gold medal “Miracle on Ice” team.
Murray will have his hands full with myriad questions about the future of the team both immediate and distant. Most urgently, Murray used his first press conference as a GM to stand behind Ted Nolan and the current interim coaching staff; “I want to build a relationship with Ted and this staff and move forward,” he said.
For the player personnel decisions that will affect the roster in 2014-2015 and many years beyond, Murray will need to make critical assessments on which veterans to retain as the structure around the foundation of young organizational talent.
The next question to be answered will be the status of goalie Ryan Miller, who is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If he is not in the future plans will Murray attempt to move him before the NHL trade deadline March 5 at 3pm EST?
Aside from Miller, Murray will also have to decide the fates of Captain, Steve Ott, leading scorer Matt Moulson and restricted free agents Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno, amongst a handful of other expiring contracts, “As far as the veteran guys who are UFA’s, the market dictates that,” Murray said, “If there’s a market and it makes sense, the team’s in last place right now, everyone could be traded.”
Despite the seemingly bleak status of the franchise, Murray is actually inheriting a roster with a relatively clean slate for the 2014-2015 season. There are only 12 players committed to contracts beyond this year without buying out Ville Leino or Drew Stafford (Two underachieving roster spots and $8.5 million worth of cap space) and the Sabres will be operating at approximately $40 million under the $71.1 million salary cap.
Regardless of what direction Murray begins to steer the Sabres ship, his first order of business should be to charge the third jersey with mutiny and throw it overboard never to be heard from again.