Sabres change course, fire Botterill as GM

    Emily Kaplan is ESPN’s national NHL reporter.

The Buffalo Sabres fired general manager Jason Botterill on Tuesday.

The move comes less than a month after ownership publicly supported Botterill.

“He’s our GM. Our plan is to continue with him,” team president and co-owner Kim Pegula told the AP in May. “I realize maybe it’s not popular with the fans, but we have to do the things that we feel are right,” she said. “We have a little bit more information than maybe a fan does, some inner workings that we see some positives in.”

Kevyn Adams, the team’s senior VP of business administration, was named general manager.

Botterill had been on the job for three seasons and had two years remaining on his deal. Assistant GMs Randy Sexton and Steve Greeley were also fired.

The Sabres were one of seven teams not to qualify for the NHL’s pandemic-altered postseason plan, extending their postseason drought to a league-high nine seasons.

The Sabres had raced off to strong starts in each of the past two seasons, only to flounder in the second half. Last month, shortly after Pegula publicly backed Botterill, captain Jack Eichel voiced his frustration with the state of the franchise.

“Listen, I’m fed up with the losing and I’m fed up and I’m frustrated,” Eichel said on a conference call with reporters in May. “You know, it’s definitely not an easy pill to swallow right now. It’s been a tough couple of months. It’s been a tough five years with where things have gone. I’m a competitor. I want to win every time I’m on the ice. I want to win a Stanley Cup every time I start a season.”

Eichel, 23, had a career-high 36 goals this past season. Botterill signed Eichel to an eight-year, $80 million contract extension in 2017, effectively making the center the face of the franchise.

Botterill’s tenure will be remembered for several missteps, including a lopsided trade that sent Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues (where he subsequently won a Stanley Cup) and hiring, then firing coach Phil Housley after two seasons. Botterill hired Ralph Kruger as coach last offseason, and Kruger has received a lot of praise from players — especially Eichel — for his approach with the team.

Kruger’s fate might lie with the new GM, but Eichel offered his endorsement in May.

“I’d be lying if I said that I’m not getting frustrated with where things are going and I think we took a step this year, but I will say it’s been a pleasure working with Ralph. He does so much for our group every day. There are tough times and he does an amazing job of … narrowing our focus and getting us back to where we need to be mentally,” Eichel said.

“And just the few times that I’ve spoken with him, you know, throughout this quarantine, whatever you want to call it, it’s been good.”

The Sabres were projected to have more than $35 million available to spend this offseason, though the salary cap might change because of the league’s lost revenue during the pandemic.

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