The first decision will be the general manager of the team. Darcy Regier has been in Buffalo a long time. He has seen the Sabres through several rebuilds, and has a long term contract extension in his pocket. That doesn’t mean he will stay, but his track record says that if he is in charge he could do a very nice job.
If Terry Pegula decides to appease the uneducated masses (I’m looking at you Bucky), he would need to bring in a new general manager. The first name that should be tossed around is Brian Burke. He has put together some great teams in the past and is currently a free agent. Beyond Burke, it would be someone who Buffalo has faith in, but might not be a big name right now. They ultimately just need someone who will get the job done.
If Rolston is released, Buffalo will need to decide on a new head coach. Guy Boucher was recently let go after several strong seasons behind the Tampa Bay bench. After Boucher there are several unemployed NHL coaches, some talented CHL and NCAA coaches, as well as assistant coaches on the inside. My money would be on a guy like Scott Arniel, who is familiar with the Buffalo organization.
Once the general manager and coach are in place and a strategy has been established moving forward, it is time to go get the players. If Regier is in charge I think it is clear that Buffalo is heading toward a big and thorough rebuild. The pieces are in place to ship out Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller for big returns. Those returns could bring in the pieces to ship out current underachievers like Drew Stafford, Ville Leino and Tyler Myers.
If Regier isn’t around and there is a general manager who does not want to rebuild, you can bet that all of these handy draft picks in the late first round and second round will be shipped out for players that can help now. This will cause some of Buffalo’s UFAs to be released and some of their less productive players to be amnestied.
Ultimately Buffalo will be resigning their RFAs and likely will not re-up with Jochen Hecht. Pysyk, McNabb, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, Jhonas Enroth, Joel Armia, Marcus Foligno and Corey Tropp will all be a part of the rebuilding process for the time being. Beyond that, the pieces will fall into place, and boy should that be fun to watch…and speculate wildly about.