BUFFALO, N.Y. — Tim Murray has the background, decisiveness and family pedigree that made him the Buffalo Sabres’ choice to turn around a losing franchise.
“I wanted to find the right fit for our team, and he’s got an eye for talent,” Sabres president Pat LaFontaine said Thursday, when he formally introduced Murray as the Sabres general manager. “He’s earned it. He’s done every job to get to this point. He’s had success everywhere he’s been. And he’s going to have success here in Buffalo.”
The 50-year-old Murray is the nephew of Senators general manager Bryan Murray, and has spent the past seven seasons working under his uncle in Ottawa as an assistant GM. Beyond that, Tim Murray has 20 years of NHL experience in a variety of roles in evaluating both amateur and professional talent.
The hiring ended a two-month search for LaFontaine, who took over in mid-November after the Sabres fired general manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston. The purge occurred after the Sabres got off to a franchise-worst 4-15-1 start and sat at the bottom of the NHL standings.
Though the team has shown improvement in going 8-11-3 under interim coach Ted Nolan, Murray made clear he has plenty of work to do in the weeks and months ahead.
Murray intends to continue the process begun under Regier by building through the draft. And he won’t be averse to trading any of the remaining core players – including goalie Ryan Miller — still on the roster.
“This team’s in last place right now,” Murray said. “Everybody can be traded.”
Miller, along with captain Steve Ott and newly acquired forward Matt Moulson, are in the final year of their contracts.
Murray said the cupboard is not bare in Buffalo, noting the Sabres have a large stock of high draft picks and up-and-coming prospects in their system.
“This was an attractive time for me to branch out on my own and try to put my stamp on the game of hockey,” Murray said.
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 defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, who were both drafted in the first round in June.
Murray indicated he is open to working with Nolan beyond this season.
LaFontaine wasn’t done restructuring his hockey department. Aside from hiring Murray, the Sabres have also brought in NHL Hall of Fame executive Craig Patrick to serve in a newly created role of special assistant and adviser.
It’s a role similar to the one Patrick had over the previous two years with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Patrick, an assistant GM of the 1980 U.S. gold-medal-winning Olympic team, has 32 years of NHL experience, including 17 years as the Pittsburgh Penguins general manager.
Patrick will serve as a sounding board for Murray and LaFontaine in helping rebuild a franchise that has missed the playoffs four of the past six seasons, and not won a postseason round since 2007.
Murray has a solid track record as a talent evaluator, and has had input in numerous personnel decisions during his previous stops in Detroit, Florida, Anaheim and the New York Rangers. In Anaheim, he had a hand in the Ducks selecting future star forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in the first round of the 2003 draft.
In Ottawa, Murray also served as general manager of the Senators American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, which won the 2011 Calder Cup championship.
Among the players Murray has identified and developed are Erik Karlsson, the 2012 Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenseman, and forward Jakob Silfverberg, who was traded to Anaheim last summer.
“I would consider myself somewhat aggressive,” Murray said of his philosophy. “I don’t think it takes you two days to make a decision or two weeks to make a decision.”
That’s a departure from the conservative approach the Sabres took under Regier, who was criticized for being overly cautious when it came to shaking up his roster. Murray’s decisiveness and directness is what owner Terry Pegula was seeking in his new GM.
“Craig’s a smart man,” Pegula said. “He’s probably forgotten more than most people know about hockey.”
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