BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Sabres coach Ted Nolan will keep building what he started in Buffalo — minus the interim tag.
Nolan is staying on as the head coach beyond this season after signing a three-year contract extension Monday. The deal comes 4-1/2 months after Nolan returned to Buffalo for a second stint — this time, initially, on an interim basis. And it's a reward for Nolan, who has provided a spark to a young, patchwork lineup on a last-place team.
"I said back in November that it was a dream to be able to come back and coach the Sabres, and that's still true today," Nolan said. "I'm excited by the challenge facing our team and our organization. And I'm truly thankful to have this opportunity."
The extension was more of a formality than a surprise. The two sides established the framework of a contract about a month ago and agreed to the deal in principle last week.
Nolan took over in mid-November after coach Ron Rolston was fired along with general manager Darcy Regier after Buffalo got off to a franchise-worst 4-15-1 start.
The Sabres (20-45-9) haven't done much better at 16-30-8 under Nolan and are likely to finish in last place with only two weeks left in the season. Buffalo is 1-10-1 in its past 12 games in preparing to host New Jersey on Tuesday.
Record aside, rookie GM Tim Murray is impressed by the job Nolan has done during what he called "a trying situation."
"I don't know if there was one 'Eureka moment,'" Murray said. "But I certainly got to the point where I knew I wanted him back, and I wanted him to be our head coach. And that wasn't yesterday or the day before."
The next step is providing Nolan more talent.
"We have to get him better players," Murray said. "It doesn't take a genius to figure that out."
The Sabres are a shell of the team that last made the playoffs in 2011, with Nolan the team's third coach in a little over a calendar year.
Regier began purging an over-priced and under-achieving roster last season. And Murray, who was hired in January, completed the overhaul in the days leading up to the NHL trade deadline on March 5. That's when Buffalo made four trades, including one that sent goalie Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to St. Louis.