Just 24 hours after losing out on the NHL’s top free agent head coach, the Buffalo Sabres have set their sights on someone new, and it’s a name familiar to Penguins fans.
With the ink still drying on former Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock’s eight-year $50 million deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs, news broke today that the Sabres have asked for and received permission to interview former Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma.
Sabres moving on quickly from Babcock. Have received permission to interview Dan Bylsma.
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) May 21, 2015
Bylsma, 44, guided the Penguins to their most recent Stanley Cup in 2009, where he coached against Babcock. In his six-plus years as the Penguins head coach, he compiled a 252-117-32 record and is the winningest coach in team history.
He was fired in June of 2014 after his Penguins lost in the playoffs to a lower-seeded opponent for the fifth consecutive year. He was an analyst for NHL Network last season and was an assistant coach for the Bronze-medal winning American team at the World Championships in Prague, Czech Republic last week.
Bylsma’s contract with the Penguins, which paid him $2 million last season, runs through the end of the 2015-16 season, which is why Sabres general manager Tim Murray was required to ask permission to interview Bylsma.
The Buffalo job is seen as a desirable one around the league despite the team’s lack of success in 2014-15. That failure on the ice was mostly brought about by the team seeking a top pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, where they will undoubtedly select Boston University superstar Jack Eichel, whom Bylsma coached on Team USA.
The Sabres also traded for injured Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane, who was unable to play for the team last season due to injury, but should be an offensive leader for the team going forward.
In addition to a pair of star forwards and a boatload of salary cap space, the Sabres also have the deep pockets of owner Terry Pegula that should help them lure top free agents.
If the Sabres decide to hire Bylsma, the Penguins have the right to request compensation according to a new NHL policy. The Penguins did not seek such compensation when the New Jersey Devils hired former Penguins general manager Ray Shero earlier this offseason. Shero was just before Bylsma in 2014.
In addition to Toronto, two other NHL clubs have filled their coaching vacancies this week. On Monday, the Philadelphia Flyers hired University of North Dakota bench boss Dave Hakstol to replace Craig Berube. The Edmonton Oilers hired former San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan on Tuesday.
Besides the Sabres, the Sharks, New Jersey Devils, and Detroit Red Wings still have coaching vacancies while the fate of Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien remains to be seen as the team promoted Don Sweeney to general manager on Wednesday.
Photo credit: NHL