Once the Florida Panthers were eliminated by the New York Islanders in just four games from the best of five qualifying round, the Panthers fired long-time GM Dale Tallon and the search for a new GM was immediately initiated by the team.
And it sounds like it has come to an end. While some pundits believed former NHL general manager Peter Chiarelli was a top candidate and a frontrunner for the position, the Panthers went a different route. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has revealed during the first intermission of Game 5 between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Islanders that the Panthers will name Bill Zito as their new general manager.
The Panthers have plucked Zito from the Columbus Blue Jackets, he who was Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations/Associate General Manager since 2013. He is 55 years old.
Zito has reportedly been chosen not only over Chiarelli, but also over NBCSN analyst Eddie Olczyk. However, Zito was rarely mentioned as a candidate for the vacant position in Florida. It is therefore quite a surprise to see Zito land the job: on Sunday, Friedman named 13 people who had interviewed for the job and Zito was not one of them. He will be reunited with netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.
Zito was a co-founder of Acme World Sports and worked 20 years as a player agent before he joined the Blue Jackets. At the time of his hiring, Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen called Zito “an astute businessman who understands all facets of our game.”
This is expected to be a big blow for the Jackets, seeing that Zito was in the front office when Columbus reached the playoffs in each of the last four seasons.
Maybe he will be able to make the Panthers a true Stanley Cup contender.