It always seemed imminent, but with Ted Nolan's history of clashes in contract disputes before, there was room for concern that the Buffalo Sabres would fail to reach a deal with their interim head coach. Worry no more, Sabres fans. According to Nick Kypreos, the terms of a three-year deal have been finalized and could be announced next week.
Nolan said Saturday that the contract is not yet signed, but hinted that this process is near its completion, as shared by Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.
Nolan says contract is not signed but he'll be "really excited when it's officially done." #Sabres— Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) March 29, 2014
The new head coach did not save the franchise from the worst record in hockey, though no one probably could in a rebuilding year that saw longtime stars Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller go elsewhere via trade.
The Sabres sit in the bottom of the league with a 20-45-8 record. Nolan is responsible for 16 of the 20 wins after taking over for Ron Rolston in November after the team started the season 4-15-1. Nolan was brought in by then president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine, who resigned months later under mysterious circumstances following the Miller trade. That further clouded Nolan's future with the club as new general manager Tim Murray wouldn't have had to go through LaFontaine on that decision.
Despite the team's continued struggles, Nolan has remained a popular figure among Sabres fans. He was the Jack Adams Award winner in his second and final season in his first stint with the Sabres in 1996-97 after leading the club to 40 wins. Nolan abruptly left the club prior to the next season after reportedly being insulted by then-GM Darcy Regier's one-year contract offer.
Prior to re-joining the Sabres organization, Nolan last coached in the NHL in 2007-08 with the New York Islanders. “Philosophical differences” with GM Garth Snow led to Nolan not returning to the franchise after his contract was up. That, along with the way things ended with the Sabres the first time around, gave Nolan a reputation that kept him out of the league until the Sabres came to him in November.
This Buffalo squad has a long rebuild ahead and they'll need to have some continuity going forward with so many young players coming up through the system. A lot will have to be done yet through the draft, but Nolan will have to ensure the players he has are developing whether at the AHL or NHL level so as the Sabres can start on the path to competitiveness again.
A three-year deal puts a lot of faith in a coach who has not spent more than two years with any one franchise in the NHL. If Nolan has the patience and creativity to turn this club around, this will be a sound move. There will always be that little flicker in the back of one's mind, however, that things could get rocky in a hurry. Sounds like the club and coach will have plenty of time to sort that out though.