01/09/2014 09:42 EST | Updated 03/11/2014 05:59 EDT

Tim Murray named new Sabres GM

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.

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.

"Tim, from the management side of it, worked his way up," said Clouston, now head coach of the Western Hockey League's Prince Albert Raiders. "He knows that game very well. The fact that he has paid his dues and he has worked in many different areas is going to bode very well for his success."

Murray emerged as one of four finalists for the job last weekend in newly hired Sabres president Pat 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.

The announcement comes before the Sabres' home game against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night.

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.

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.

"He treated me with a lot of class," Don Nachbaur, who coached one season in Binghamton, told the News of Murray. "Highly organized, really understood the players.

"You couldn't bring up the name of a player, whether it was in the American league or the National Hockey League, that Tim didn't have a book on."

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."

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.

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.

In Buffalo, Murray's first priority will be determining whether to re-sign several core players who are in the final year of their contracts, including goalie Ryan Miller, captain Steve Ott and recently acquired forward Matt Moulson.

Next comes the draft.

The Sabres are well-stocked with high picks as part of a youth movement that began under Regier last season.

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.

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 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.