Nothing is official yet but reports say former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and the Buffalo Sabres have an agreement in place for him to become the next Sabres coach.
According to the Associated Press, Bylsma met with Sabres management on Wednesday and met with the club again Thursday to discuss their vacant coaching position. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman had reported earlier that while the deal was likely, Buffalo would wait until it’s formal to make any concrete announcements.
Thursday afternoon, however, the Associated Press' John Wawrow reported that the two sides have come to an agreement and Bylsma will, in fact, become the Sabres coach pending compensation to the Penguins.
As Friedman pointed out, a big part of the Sabres secrecy regarding their next coach stems from their losing out on Mike Babcock, who some believed was close to a deal that would make him Buffalo’s coach before inking a deal to become the new coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The vacancy in Buffalo opened up after a disastrous 2014-15 campaign for the Sabres in which Ted Nolan’s club finished dead-last in the NHL and had the league’s worst goal differential. Over the course of the season, the Sabres won only 23 games, while dropping 51 games in regulation. Nolan, who had his roster stripped down in what some called purposeful tanking by the Sabres to land one of the top two picks in the upcoming draft, was let go by the team on April 12.
Bylsma was relieved of his duties as Penguins coach following the 2013-14 campaign, when Pittsburgh, for the fourth time in five seasons, failed to reach the third round of the playoffs despite boasting a roster that featured stars such as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Bylsma was granted permission by the Penguins to search for a new job and, in addition to the Sabres, Bylsma had reportedly interviewed with the San Jose Sharks before their reported hiring of Peter DeBoer.
Over the course of his coaching career, Bylsma led the Penguins to the 2008-09 Stanley Cup and posted a record of 252-117-32 in 401 games behind the bench for Pittsburgh. His 252 victories rank first all-time in wins by a Penguins coach.
With Bylsma landing in Buffalo, it will allow him to work with and cultivate young talent such as Zemgus Girgensons, Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov, Sam Reinhart, Mikhail Grigorenko and, in all likelihood, Jack Eichel. The Sabres are currently one of the youngest teams in the entire league with plenty of room to grow and an outstanding crop of young stars coming down the pike. The up-and-coming talent is the selling point for the Sabres job.
Bylsma also coached Eichel at the 2015 World Championship in the Czech Republic as an assistant for Team USA. With Bylsma at the Worlds, Eichel registered two goals and seven assists in 10 games.