In a rather stunning turn of events after the Buffalo Sabres pulled off a blockbuster trade Friday, the team announced Pat LaFontaine resigned from his post as president of hockey operations. According to the Sabres, LaFontaine will resume his role with the NHL, which he held prior to joining the team.
The resignation comes on the heels of a disagreement about the future of Ryan Miller, who the team dealt with captain Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues Friday for a large return package, according to Ren Lavoie of TVA Sports.
The last straw was the Ryan Miller trade. Pat Lafontaine was pushing to give Miller an extension. Tim Murray was pushing for a trade.— Renaud Lavoie (@LavoieRenaud) March 1, 2014
Both Sabres owner Terry Pegula and LaFontaine released statements through the team.
“I would like to thank Pat for all he has done for the organization,” said Pegula. “Pat joined us at a very difficult time and helped transition the organization down a new path. Tim Murray will continue as General Manager and Craig Patrick will continue as a Senior Hockey Advisor. As has been the case since I bought the team, we'll continue to do whatever is needed to rebuild the organization and keep it on path towards our ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.”
“Terry Pegula hired me in November and my primary objective was to lead the Sabres organization through a time of transition,” said LaFontaine. “I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish in a short period of time and want to thank Terry and Kim Pegula for the opportunity and their support during my time with the Sabres. I also want to convey my best wishes to all of the players in the Sabres organization and to wish them the best of success in the future. Most importantly, I want to convey my heartfelt appreciation to the great fans of the Sabres for the way I have been treated here as a player and as an executive.”
Though the statements are complimentary, the reports paint a rather ugly picture of a disagreement that eventually led to LaFontaine leaving a job he seemed genuinely excited to take in November.
The former Sabres great came to the club after Pegula decided to let go longtime general manager Darcy Regier and head coach Ron Rolston. LaFontaine brought in current interim head coach Ted Nolan and new general manager Tim Murray. He probably didn't expect things to end the way they did.
This is the second rather ugly divorce from a former team for LaFontaine. He left a post as an adviser with the New York Islanders after just 40 days after he reportedly disagreed with owner Charles Wang over firing general manager Neil Smith.
There's a lot of behind the scenes stuff that we may never truly know, but for this to happen twice doesn't look great for LaFontaine.
Not much should change for the Sabres organizationally, as there is now just one less voice at the top of the decision-making pyramid. Murray did well in his return for the face of the franchise and may actually have a chance to reap longer-term rewards by dealing Miller.
The decision on what to do with the star goalie was an important one for the organization and for that to be a point of a major disagreement at the top of the hockey operations department certainly wasn't a good situation.
Maybe in the end, LaFontaine's exit will be best for everyone, but it is yet another seemingly ugly moment in what has been a disaster of a season for the Buffalo Sabres.