BUFFALO, N.Y. – The Buffalo Sabres have narrowed their general manager search to four candidates, including Bruins assistant GM Jim Benning and Senators assistant GM Tim Murray, a person familiar with the process told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Sabres have not revealed their list of candidates to succeed Darcy Regier, who was fired in November. The search is led by newly hired team president Pat LaFontaine.
The finalists are still being interviewed, and no timetable has yet been set for when the position will be filled, the person said. The two other finalists were not revealed.
Candidates linked to the job include Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Jason Botterill and Toronto Maple Leafs assistant GM Claude Loiselle.
Benning, a former NHL defenceman, spent 12 seasons as a Sabres scout, including eight as the team’s director of amateur scouting before being hired by the Bruins in 2006.
In Buffalo, Benning had a hand in the Sabres drafting the core of the team that lost the Eastern Conference finals in 2006 and ’07. It was a group that included goalie Ryan Miller, forwards Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville and defenceman Brian Campbell.
Murray is in his seventh season as the Senators’ assistant general manager. He began his NHL scouting career with Detroit in 1993, and is the nephew of Senators general manager Bryan Murray.
Murray has also spent time as a scout with Florida, Anaheim and the New York Rangers.
LaFontaine has been patient in conducting his search since taking over after the Sabres fired both Regier and coach Ron Rolston. The purge happened after the Sabres got off to a franchise-worst start and stuck at the bottom of the NHL standings with a 4-15-1 record.
LaFontaine was initially offered the GM’s post by Sabres owner Terry Pegula, but instead turned it down because he felt he didn’t have enough experience.
LaFontaine’s first move was bringing back former Sabres coach Ted Nolan to serve as interim coach with the chance to retain the job once a new general manager is in place.
Under Nolan, the Sabres (12-26-4) have gone 8-11-3 and have won five straight at home entering their home game against Carolina on Tuesday night.
Though still last in the standings, the Sabres’ general manager’s job is considered attractive because the team has stockpiled high draft picks as part of a youth movement that began under Regier last season.
The Sabres could have as many as two first-round and three second-round selections in this year’s draft. The Sabres also have a solid group of prospects in their farm system. They include defencemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, who were both drafted in the first round in June.
The next Sabres general manager’s most immediate priority will be determining whether to re-sign Miller, who is in the final year of his contract.