Tim Murray no longer is general manager Bryan Murray's heir apparent with the Ottawa Senators.
The Buffalo Sabres on Thursday named the former Senators assistant GM the replacement for recently fired GM Darcy Regier.
"He's a very, very smart hockey man," one-time Senators head coach Cory Clouston said of Murray in an interview with the Buffalo News this week. "There's no one I've ever met that knows players as well as Tim and can analyze their strengths and weaknesses. He's very good at projecting players."
Clouston, whom the Senators fired in April 2011, had a 95-83-20 record overall with the team. He had previously worked under Murray for one-plus seasons as head coach of the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Binghamton, N.Y., which won the Calder Cup in 2011.
Also Thursday, the Sabres announced that Hall of Famer and former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Craig Patrick has been hired to serve as a special assistant and adviser to the hockey department.
'I wanted to find the right fit for our team, and he's got an eye for talent. ... He's had success everywhere he's been and he's going to have success here in Buffalo.'- Sabres president Pat LaFontaine on new GM Tim Murray
Murray had spent the past six-plus seasons working for the Senators, and has 20 years of NHL experience after breaking in as a scout with the Detroit Red Wings in 1993. He is the nephew of Bryan Murray, who has mentored him throughout his career.
"I wanted to find the right fit for our team, and he's got an eye for talent," Sabres president Pat LaFontaine said Thursday, when he formally introduced Murray as the Sabres GM. "He's earned it. He's done every job to get to this point. He's had success everywhere he's been. And he's going to have success here in Buffalo."
Murray emerged as one of four finalists for the job last weekend in LaFontaine's two-month search to replace Darcy Regier, who was fired in November.
The final step of the process was for the candidates to be interviewed by Sabres owner Terry Pegula, who was in Buffalo on Wednesday.
Outstanding talent evaluator
Murray is regarded as an excellent talent evaluator and is credited with helping build a competitive, cost-efficient club in Ottawa.
Impressive youngsters like all-star defenceman Erik Karlsson, forwards Mika Zibanejad and Zack Smith and goalie Robin Lehner were drafted under Murray's watch.
"I would consider myself somewhat aggressive," Murray said of his philosophy. "I don't think it takes you two days to make a decision or two weeks to make a decision."
Murray, 50, helped Ottawa reach the Stanley Cup playoffs in four of his first six full campaigns with the team, and the Senators are in the post-season race this season with a 19-18-8 record entering play Thursday.
In a statement released by the Senators, Bryan Murray said it was a day of mixed emotions seeing his nephew depart for Buffalo.
"He was a great member of our staff and his contributions will be missed, but I'm also very proud that he is able to become a general manager in the National Hockey League. I want to formally congratulate him on this tremendous achievement," Bryan Murray said.
"I'm confident that he'll step in and do a great job for the Sabres."
Thanks to Tim Murray for his great work with our hockey club. He is leaving for a promotion and its well earned, we wish him the best.— Eugene Melnyk (@MelnykEugene) January 9, 2014
Murray takes over a Sabres team in transition after Regier and coach Ron Rolston were both fired in mid-November. They took the blame for the Sabres sitting in last in the NHL standings and after getting off to a franchise-worst 4-15-1 start.
Signs of progress
LaFontaine's first move was hiring Ted Nolan to take over as interim coach, with the understanding he will have a shot to retain the job once a new GM is in place. Under Nolan, the Sabres (12-26-4) have shown signs of progress in going 8-11-3, and winning five straight home games.
Murray indicated he is open to working with Nolan beyond this season.
He also intends to continue the process begun under Regier by building through the draft. And he won't be averse to trading any of the remaining core player, including goalie Ryan Miller, still on the roster.
"This team's in last place right now," Murray said. "Everybody can be traded."
Miller, along with captain Steve Ott and newly acquired forward Matt Moulson, are in the final year of their contracts.
Murray said the cupboard is not bare in Buffalo, noting the Sabres have a large stock of high draft picks and up-and-coming prospects in their system.
The Sabres could have as many as two first-round and three second-round selections in this year's draft. The Sabres also have a solid group of prospects in their farm system. They include defencemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, who were both drafted in the first round in June.
"This was an attractive time for me to branch out on my own and try to put my stamp on the game of hockey," Murray said.
Pegula initially offered the GM's job to LaFontaine, the former Sabres captain. LaFontaine instead turned it down because he felt he didn't have enough experience.
Hired by Florida in 1994, Murray eventually worked his way up to become the Panthers director of amateur scouting. He also worked in various amateur and pro scouting jobs with the Anaheim Ducks and New York Rangers before joining the Senators.
Patrick joins the Sabres after serving as a senior adviser in the Columbus Blue Jackets' front office since December 2011. Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, he has earned a reputation as one of the most respected executives in hockey.
Patrick will serve as a sounding board for Murray and LaFontaine in helping rebuild a franchise that has missed the playoffs four of the past six seasons, and not won a post-season round since 2007.
Patrick was executive vice president and GM of the Penguins for 17 years from 1989 to 2006, winning back-to-back Cup championships in 1991 and '92.