BUFFALO – Two days after Ted Nolan appeared devastated discussing the sudden departure of his close friend, Pat LaFontaine, igniting speculation he could also be leaving the Sabres, the interim coach sounded like someone who’s staying put.
Nolan has an extension on the table from the Sabres, something he said he might tackle next week.
“There’s a lot more important issues than getting my contract signed,” Nolan told reporters Tuesday in Tampa Bay. “It’s in the proper hands. People are looking at it. As I said when I first got here, I love Buffalo. I really do. I love the people of Buffalo. If there’s one place I had a chance to pick in the National Hockey League I could come back to, this would be the place.
“So I have no concerns with my personal situation right now. It’s all about this team and how we’re going to get through this period.”
This period hasn’t been easy.
LaFontaine, who hired Nolan to coach again in November, resigned Saturday, a day after the Sabres traded franchise goalie Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott. The NHL trade deadline hits at 3 p.m. today. The rebuilding Sabres will almost certainly make at least a few deals.
“They don’t need me negotiating a contract at this point,” Nolan said. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m here. I’m trying to do the best job I possibly can and worrying about the team. We got young kids that really don’t know what happened and why it happened. It’s my job to settle them, give them some direction, some leadership right now.”
Nolan said he always wears his emotions on his sleeve.
“If you’re not disappointed with what’s going on, you’re hiding your emotions, and I’m a pretty emotional guy,” he said. “(LaFontaine leaving) set me back. But as far as the excitement of being back here in Buffalo, it hasn’t altered one bit.”
With the deadline looming, Nolan gave his players the day off Tuesday so they could get hockey out of their systems and “enjoy just being themselves.”
The Ottawa Senators waived winger Cory Conacher, a Canisius College product, on Tuesday. The Sabres have the first claim thanks to their 30th overall ranking.
Is there a match?
Todd Reynolds, Conacher’s agent, said by phone while he hasn’t spoken to the Sabres, he wouldn’t be surprised if they claimed him.
Given the connections – Sabres general manager Tim Murray was recently in Ottawa’s front office and director of pro scouting Jon Christiano is a Canisius graduate – Reynolds thinks it makes sense.
Reynolds said he doesn’t expect Conacher to clear and he has already spoken to other teams. In an odd move, Conacher played for the Senators on Tuesday night, which is allowed.
Conacher’s the most decorated local NCAA product ever. He’s from nearby Burlington, about an hour across the Ontario border.
The 24-year-old, a restricted free agent following the season, has six goals and 25 points in 71 games since the Senators acquired him last season from Tampa Bay for Ben Bishop, who’s quietly blossomed into a first-rate goalie this season. Conacher has four goals and 20 points in 59 games this season.