Penguins' Jason Botterill leading candidate for vacant Sabres GM job

Jason Botterill is the favorite to take the GM job with the Sabres, the team he finished his playing career with. Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images

Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula is nearing a decision on a new general manager, and Pittsburgh Penguins associate general manager Jason Botterill is believed to have the inside track.

A source told ESPN.com that Botterill, 40, met with the Sabres for a second time Tuesday night and has emerged as a leading candidate among a group of at least five who have interviewed for the job, which opened April 20 when the Sabres fired general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma.

Others who have reportedly interviewed for the position include Los Angeles Kings assistant general manager Michael Futa, Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin, Nashville Predators assistant general manager Paul Fenton and New Jersey Devils assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald.

A scouting report on each of the top five candidates:

Jason Botterill: A 1997 graduate of Michigan, where he earned a degree in economics and a master's in business administration, Botterill has spent the past 10 seasons working in nearly every capacity with the Penguins, serving two years as director of hockey administration, five years as assistant general manager to former GM Ray Shero and the past three years as Jim Rutherford's associate GM.

Botterill was a first-round draft pick of the Dallas Stars in 1994, won three straight gold medals for Canada in the World Junior Championships and won an NCAA title with Michigan in 1996. He played parts of six seasons in the NHL, including his final two with the Sabres, from 2002-04, before retiring at 28 because of concussions.

In his 10 years with the Penguins, Botterill oversaw player development, negotiated contracts and worked closely with Shero and Rutherford to manage the salary cap while winning two Stanley Cups in 2009 and 2016.

Michael Futa: Interviewed by the Sabres before Murray was hired as GM in 2014, Futa, 49, has spent the past 10 seasons in Los Angeles, where he worked under former GM Dean Lombardi and former assistant GM Ron Hextall, and saw many of the players he helped develop win the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014. Futa also interviewed for the Calgary Flames GM job that went to Brad Treliving three summers ago.

Futa served as the Kings' vice president of hockey operations and director of player personnel before new general manager Rob Blake promoted him to assistant general manager last month after the firing of Lombardi (who, by the way, has not been interviewed for the vacant position in Buffalo).

Bill Guerin: After retiring as a player in 2010, Guerin, 46, has spent the past six seasons with the Penguins, first as a player development coach and then for the past three seasons as an assistant GM under Rutherford and Botterill.

Taken fifth overall by the Devils in 1989, Guerin played two years at Boston College before turning pro and won the Stanley Cup with the Devils in 1995 and with the Penguins in 2009.

Paul Fenton: Considered a peripheral candidate for previous openings with the Washington Capitals, Sabres and Flames, Fenton, 57, has spent the past 19 seasons with the Predators, working his way from director of player personnel to assistant general manager and general manager of the AHL Milwaukee Admirals.

An undrafted left winger who played for seven teams from 1984 to '92, Fenton was previously given permission by Predators general manager David Poile to speak with other teams and likely would not be prohibited from advancing his career.

Tom Fitzgerald: Named an assistant GM with the Devils two years ago, Fitzgerald, 48, has spent the past 10 seasons working his way up the managerial ladder. After a 17-year playing career, Fitzgerald was hired by Shero in 2007, when he was appointed the Penguins' director of player development.

Fitzgerald served as an assistant coach on the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup team and was promoted to Shero's assistant for the next five years before Shero was fired in 2014. When Shero took on the role of Devils general manager two years ago, he hired Fitzgerald as part of his staff. The Devils have failed to make the playoffs in each of their two seasons under Shero.