Pat LaFontaine has quit the Buffalo Sabres, and sources say the Ryan Miller trade may be behind the president of hockey operations’ abrupt departure.
LaFontaine announced Saturday evening that he was leaving the team, a little more than three months after he was brought on to help forge a new path for the NHL’s last-place team. His announcement also comes nearly 24 hours after the team traded All-Star goalie Ryan Miller to the St. Louis Blues, with sources close to the team indicating that was the reason for his leaving.
Source said that Pat LaFontaine preferred to keep Miller, and was pushing for the team to offer an extension to him. Instead, new general manager Tim Murray traded both Miller and Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick, and a conditional 2016 third-round pick.
The official word from both LaFontaine and the Sabres is that he left to return to his job with the NHL.
“Terry Pegula hired me in November, and my primary objective was to lead the Sabres organization through a time of transition,” LaFontaine said in the Sabres’ release. “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.”
But the sudden departure of LaFontaine points to a power struggle behind the scenes for the Buffalo Sabres. LaFontaine reportedly was told he would have final say over major hockey decisions, but that changed once Tim Murray was hired as general manager. LaFontaine reportedly not sign off on the Ryan Miller trade.
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
Some sources even suggest that Pat LaFontaine did not leave on his own accord.
Working phones all night. I’m hearing LaFontaine did not resign, but was fired. Many, many theories out there with blame on both sides.
— Bucky Gleason (@TBNbucky) March 2, 2014
The Buffalo Sabres are not the first team that Pat LaFontaine has left after a short stint. In 2006, he quit the New York Islanders a little more than a month after being named senior adviser to owner Charles Wang.