On Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins completed their series defeat of the Washington Capitals and moved to the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight season.
Rumors had been running rampant all week that the Buffalo Sabres were set to hire Penguins associate general manager Jason Botterill for the franchise’s vacant general manager position, but there was a hangup.
Out of respect for the opposition, Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula decided to wait until the end of the pending playoff series to make the hire official.
With that aforementioned series victory, all eyes turned to Buffalo.
It did not take the franchise long to make the hiring official.
Everyone can immediately breathe a big sigh of relief – the team got their guy.
Rising Star in the NHL
Terry Pegula spoke very highly of him in a press release on Thursday morning:
Jason’s hockey knowledge, experience drafting and developing players, and his approach to management stood out to us during our interview process. Jason has built a solid reputation as a leader that connects strongly with players and staff around him. We are confident he will have a positive impact within our organization and will help us get to our ultimate goal.
It is no secret that Botterill is a rising star in the NHL’s management world.
After retiring as a player, he was involved in scouting with the Dallas Stars in 2006-07. Botterill then moved to Pittsburgh in 2007, where he worked with scouting player development and contract and salary cap management. He also served as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ general manager from 2009-10 to 2016-17.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) May 11, 2017
The glowing track record is there. The strong recommendations from other hockey minds are there. Even having a played the game, one would think he has a different perspective in that field as well.
Buffalo has sorely been lacking someone with all-around hockey experience. Tim Murray is a very smart hockey mind but he lacked experience in the managing department, as we came to learn.
With this hire, it is hard to poke a lot of holes into it.
There is a lot of work for him to do, but this is the right foot forward for a team looking for a direction. Give the car keys to a guy who is comfortable with the job.
There are massive decisions to be made very soon—the expansion draft, the entry draft, buyouts, trades and free agency are all going to take place within the next two months. This is the guy to trust.
Botterill spoke to AHL.com back in 2008 about his transition off the ice. It is hard to deny that the Sabres nabbed themselves a very smart hockey mind.
I was fortunate to play pro hockey for eight years. I went back to school thinking I had always enjoyed the quantitative theory and I probably would be going into commercial banking or corporate finances. After my first year I realized I was watching SportsCenter more than watching CNBC. I realized it was still a passion of mine – the game of hockey – and this was a way to sort of stay a part of it and be part of a job I really enjoyed.
Our own Mike Colligan wrote about “The Botterill Factor” back in 2011. To read about the effect that he had on the Penguins’ day-to-day operations really gives you a look into his mindset.
When Pittsburgh demoted then-prospect Eric Tangradi to the ECHL a day before the 2011 season began, many people were left scratching their heads. This move screamed Botterill. As Mike pointed out, the move created “millions of dollars” in cap space that allowed the Penguins to play for a full roster throughout the first month.
Mike’s article provided us with a look into the cap guru’s brain:
What we deal with is we’re just so tied to the cap, whereas a lot more teams are tied to budgets,” he says. “When you get to the cap, it’s hard cap numbers. You can’t call up certain players because of it. My first year [as a budget team], I didn’t even look at our own salary cap [status]. You’re just calling up the best player from the American Hockey League and let’s go on. Now it’s a ‘what’s the cap hit, how is it going to affect us?’ type of thing.
Moves like that have shown the smarts and shrewd ability that Botterill possesses and brings to the table. It is no fluke that he has become a popular name throughout the league.
While some fans may be a little uneasy with Terry Pegula again hiring an ex-Sabre to run an important part of his hockey team, this move is indeed the right move – for the present and the future of the Sabres.
Ryan is a sportswriter and podcaster, with his focus centered on the Buffalo Sabres. He is a resident of the Rochester, New York area. Ryan looks to build his pieces with a fact-based backbone to educate the reader, while allowing them to mold their own opinions.