The Buffalo Sabres are not renewing the contract of associate coach Brian McCutcheon, though they haven’t ruled out the possibility of him returning in another role.
The decision, announced in a release by the team Thursday, comes as the Sabres are in the midst of restructuring their entire operation under new owner Terry Pegula, who purchased the team in February.
”This was a tough decision that we both decided was best for the organization,” general manager Darcy Regier said. ”We have not closed the doors on a different opportunity within the organization for Brian in the future.”
McCutcheon has been a Sabres assistant since 2000, and served as coach Lindy Ruff’s top assistant for the past five seasons. He joined Ruff’s staff after previously spending three seasons as coach of the Sabres’ minor league affiliate, AHL Rochester, where he was a two-time coach of the year finalist.
”After meeting with Brian, I felt we needed to go in a different direction with my staff moving forward,” Ruff said.
McCutcheon accepted the decision in thanking Ruff and the Sabres for the opportunity to coach in Buffalo.
”It was a difficult decision, but I agree that at this point in my career, it is time to move on to something different,” McCutcheon said. ”I’m looking forward to exploring different career options, including any offered by the Sabres’ organization.”
One potential role for McCutcheon is returning to the AHL, where the Sabres suddenly have a vacancy after their minor-league coach Kevin Dineen was hired to take over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.
The question is whether the Sabres’ affiliate will remain in Portland, Maine, where it has been based the past three seasons or will relocate back to Rochester with the Americans.
The Sabres, last month, signed a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase the Americans. Sabres president Ted Black wrote in a text on Thursday that he had ”nothing to share at this time,” when asked if there was any update to the purchase process.
Minor league affiliation is but one of several aspects of the organization that are being re-evaluated this offseason. The Sabres are expected to increase their player development staff, and have already begun a multimillion-dollar renovation of their player facilities.
Buffalo’s WGR-Radio reported that Kevyn Adams and former Sabres captain Mike Foligno are considered the top candidates to replace McCutcheon. Adams, a former NHLer, has spent the past two seasons as the Sabres’ player development coach.
Foligno was an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks last season, and has head-coaching experience at the Canadian junior level. Foligno has another connection to Buffalo, as the Sabres selected his son, Marcus Foligno, in the fourth round of the 2009 draft.
Earlier on Thursday, the Sabres signed defenseman Mark Pysyk – their 2010 first-round draft pick – to a three-year entry level contract. Selected 23rd overall, the 19-year-old had a Canadian Junior career-high 40 points (six goals, 34 assists) in 63 games with Edmonton of the Western Hockey League last season. Pysyk was captain of the team and bounced back from a foot injury that hindered him the previous year.
Pysyk has 19 goals and 68 assists in 187 career games with Edmonton. He also was a member of Canada’s gold-medal winning Under-18 team at the 2009 Ivan Hlinka Tournament.