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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

LaFontaine suddenly severs ties with Sabres

Resigns as president of hockey operations

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BUFFALO, N.Y. -- First, Ryan Miller. Now, Pat LaFontaine.

A day after trading their star goalie to St. Louis, the Buffalo Sabres lost another face of their franchise after LaFontaine abruptly resigned as president of hockey operations on Saturday a little more than three months after being brought in to provide a new direction to the NHL's last-place team.

The Sabres announced the decision in a news release issued after speculation had been raised of a potential front-office shake-up involving LaFontaine.

"I would like to thank Pat for all he has done for the organization," Sabres owner Terry Pegula said in the release. "Pat joined us at a very difficult time, and helped transition the organization down a new path."

The Sabres said LaFontaine would be returning to his previous role working with the National Hockey League. LaFontaine had been working with the league on player safety issues before being hired by the Sabres in mid-November.

The former Sabres captain's arrival was hailed as a major turning point for a struggling team. LaFontaine took over following a change in the front office during which general manager Darcy Regier and coach Ron Rolston were dismissed following the Sabres' 4-15-1 start.

LaFontaine's first move was hiring former Sabres coach Ted Nolan to take over as coach on an interim basis for the remainder of the season.

LaFontaine's next step came in January, when he hired Tim Murray as general manager.

"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."

LaFontaine's resignation still comes as a major surprise. In January, LaFontaine talked openly about how he would use his connections to USA Hockey in a bid to lure national and international events to Buffalo.

He leaves a day after Murray made his first big splash by trading star goalie Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to the St. Louis Blues.

In exchange, the Sabres acquired goalie Jaroslav Halak, forward Chris Stewart, prospect William Carrier, a 2015 first-round pick and a conditional 2016 third-round pick in a deal reached in advance of the NHL trade deadline on Wednesday.

The Sabres (18-34-8) had the day off on Saturday.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2014 B5

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