The Buffalo Sabres want to retain Kevin Dineen as head coach of the Portland Pirates, but Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier will wait until he’s sure no other NHL team is interested in hiring Dineen before starting contract negotiations with him.

“In light of what is happening in the National Hockey League, I think it’s still too early to know whether he will be interviewed for additional opportunities to move to the National Hockey League in some capacity,” said Regier, in a recent telephone interview. “In the event that does not happen then our objective is to re-sign him certainly for next season.”

Earlier this month, Dineen was one of four final candidates to become head coach of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. On June 9, Columbus hired Scott Arniel, former coach of the AHL’s Manitoba Moose, to fill the vacancy.

Dineen, 46, has coached the Pirates for the past five seasons. The Pirates became the Sabres’ AHL affiliate two years ago.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to work on a new contract until we as an organization know that he is available to continue to be employed by the Buffalo Sabres,” Regier said.

Regier declined to say if any other NHL teams had expressed interest in Dineen, who remains under contract to the Sabres until next month.

The Atlanta Thrashers are the only NHL team that does not have a head coach.

According to Portland Pirates spokesman Mark Jeanneret, Dineen had no comment about his job situation.

Regier said Dineen, currently vacationing in upstate New York, is still very much involved with operations of the Pirates.

According to Regier, the Sabres will to have find replacements for a number of the AHL team’s veteran players.

“With the older veterans, there is a question of whether they will be back,” Regier said. “We’ve already had a conference call on that, and Kevin was a part of that. We’ve begun work on that already.”

Recently, forward Kyle Wanwig signed a two-year contract with the Augsberg Panthers and forward Philip Gogulla signed with the Cologne Sharks in the German Elite League.

Defenseman Joe DiPenta has said he also is mulling offers to play in Europe.

Both Dineen and Pirates’ assistant Eric Weinrich will attend a camp for Buffalo’s prospects, held July 5-9 at Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y.

“As long as (Dineen is) employed by us, and isn’t employed somewhere else, we’ll keep him involved,” Regier said.

Last week, Kevin Collins, who served as strength and conditioning and video coach for the Pirates, was named the Blue Jackets’ strength and conditioning coach.

Regier said that position will remain vacant until the Pirates’ head coaching situation is resolved.

“We will train someone to do the same (job),” he said. “(Collins) did an outstanding job, but he’s not the only one in the world who is able to do that. We think we will find someone to train.”

Regier has set no deadline to start contract negotiations with Dineen or his possible replacement.

“I don’t view the date as a critical issue,” he said. “Out of respect for people who are working in the American Hockey League and are hoping to move to the National Hockey League, it’s not unreasonable to let that play out and follow a process.

“Once that’s out of the way, it would certainly be our intention to work on a new contract.”


Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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