We’re still waiting for Terry Pegula to officially buy the Sabres and with the pending ownership change, there’s a good chance the product on the ice could look very different by next fall.
There are quite a few big-money players with expiring contracts and both Paul from Hockey Rhetoric and Kate from the Willful Caboose have put together some great posts discussing those potential changes (if you haven’t read them yet, shame on you).
Two other important figures in the Sabres organization are also technically set to become free agents this summer as the contracts of both general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Lindy Ruff are set to expire.
According to sources Bucky Gleason has spoken with over the last few months, it seems that Regier is gone either way:
Sources last week said Sabres minority partner Dan DiPofi is likely headed for the exits whenever Pegula takes over. Managing partner Larry Quinn and Regier are expected to remain through a transition process before departing.
If Terry Pegula really likes Ruff (and there will be no way of knowing this until he assumes ownership), I wouldn’t be surprised if they pulled out quite a few stops to keep the coach in Buffalo.
Except maybe they don’t retain him as a coach. Again, depending on if Pegula is a big Ruff fan, maybe they offer Ruff the general manager’s chair.
It’s not that crazy of an idea. Ruff can choose his next destination and he will probably command a hefty salary on the open market. If the Sabres really want to keep him, maybe they offer him more money with more responsibility. He already knows the current team’s dynamic and he’s familiar with the players on the farm. He knows what player types the roster and organization are lacking.
If Ruff is in charge of all personnel moves (and this hypothetical promotion is certainly up for discussion), two things scare me right off the bat.
The first is head coach Brian McCutcheon. I’m not saying McCutcheon would be a bad coach (although he could be), but it really doesn’t stir up any excitement for a fanbase that’s ready for positive change.
The other is an eight-year, $35 million contract for a Ruff-favorite like Matt Ellis, which seems more plausible than a corner office for Chris Taylor at One Seymour H. Knox III Plaza.
The Sabres do have a head coach-in-waiting in the minors. Kevin Dineen’s name (like Randy Cunneyworth’s before him) will certainly come up in the rumor mill when coaching positions become available. Maybe he’s ready to succeed Ruff.
And Ruff is on record saying he’d like to have a shot at GM someday. From an article in the Buffalo News published earlier this month:
“I enjoy what I’m doing. I want to keep on doing it,” said Ruff, who eventually would like to climb the ladder to general manager. “I have always thought about it, but I have no aspirations short term.”
That’s the nice way of saying, yes, I want to be a general manager one day but I don’t want to step on any toes right now. I think it’s a safe bet that if the GM job in Buffalo is open, Ruff would have a tough time not thinking about what he could do in that position.