Friedman: Sabres could hire head coach shortly after Stanley Cup Final

June 07, 2017 - 11:55 am
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The Buffalo Sabres continue to wait for the Stanley Cup Final to end in order to get a head coach in place before the NHL Entry-Level Draft from June 23rd through the 24th.

The Sabres have reportedly talked to some candidates like Bob Boughner and Craig Berube, but general manager Jason Botterill is waiting for the chance to talk to candidates such as Phil Housley and Rick Tocchet.

I wouldn't be surprised to see Craig Berube on the Blues bench this season as an associate coach. Interviewed in Buffalo and Florida.

— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) June 7, 2017

The Cup Final is currently even at two games a-piece with Game 5 coming up on Thursday in Pittsburgh. The winner of Game 5 will have the chance to close out the series in Nashville on Sunday, with Game 7 back in Pittsburgh on Wednesday if necessary.

Once the Final ends, Botterill will be able to talk with guys like Housley and Tocchet for Buffalo's head coaching position. If all goes well, then the Sabres could have their head coach in place in short order.

"I think it will be pretty quick," said Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman with The Instigators on Wednesday. "These teams probably know of the interest, but I don't know too many teams that would allow their coaches to interview during the playoffs... I would bet that as soon as (the Cup Final) is over, the next day (the Sabres) will be sending notes to these teams, saying 'can we interview these guys?' The answer will be yes, and we'll see how quickly it can happen."

"Jason Botterill made it very clear that he will take his time. I know there's a lot of talk that Housley's gonna be in Florida. (Panthers general manager) Dale Tallon went on record last week in saying it's down to two, and everybody believes that number one on his list is Housley. We'll see. But I think Housley and Tocchet are definitely in the mix along with Bob Boughner, Todd Reirden, and possibly some other names that we're not even aware of yet."

It seems like a lot of league-wide activity is waiting to take place until the Stanley Cup Final comes to an end, including trade activity between teams.

Friedman had reported on Saturday that Sabres forward Evander Kane is getting some trade interest from teams around the NHL. The one team that has been reported to have the most interest early on is the Los Angeles Kings.

"I've heard L.A. is definitely interested," Friedman said on Wednesday. "I heard some people say Anaheim (was interested), but I was told that is not the case. Whenever you have Kane available, you always wonder about Vancouver because they've been interested in the past. But the one team I definitely heard had some interest was L.A."

The Sabres acquired Kane back in February of 2015 from the Winnipeg Jets, and has 78 points in 135 games in over two seasons with Buffalo. However, he is entering the final year of a six-year, $31.5 million deal and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2018. Kane just put up one of the best seasons in his career with 28 goals and 43 points in 70 games.

While the value for a Kane trade has been widely speculated, the Sabres would like to get a top-four defenseman in return. However, to trade for a defenseman may not happen if Kane's future with the interested team is in question.

"We all know what the Sabres are looking for, they're looking for (defense). L.A. has (defense)," Friedman said. "I think the biggest question, and one I haven't been able to get answered yet, is L.A. willing to deal one of their (defensemen) without signing Kane to an extension?"

The defensemen that have been speculated to be available for trade from Los Angeles are Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez.

Muzzin, 28, had a rough year in Los Angeles with just nine goals and 19 points in 82 games after putting up consecutive 40-point seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16. He is more of a two-way defenseman who can move the puck and provide some offense while playing physical, defensive hockey in his own end.

Martinez, 29, had his best statistical season in 2016-17 with nine goals and 39 points in 82 games. Martinez can also move the puck well, but he is more well known for his play on the offensive side of the puck.

However, another factor that could come into play is what other teams may offer if they are looking to acquire one of either Muzzin or Martinez.

"I think L.A. is also looking at Tampa," Friedman said. "(Lightning general manager) Steve Yzerman is on record saying he's looking for a defenseman. L.A. is looking for forwards and Tampa has a surplus of forwards. But I know the Kings like the way Evander Kane plays. They have in the past, and I think it will come down to whether or not they can make a deal with Buffalo. I know they're interested."

Friedman also discussed other trade rumors and more about the Stanley Cup Final with The Instigators. You can hear the entire interview below:

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