The Florida Panthers have their man.
After former GM Dale Tallon was let go of his position in August after the Panthers fell to the New York Islanders in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, many questions and speculation arose about who may be the next man under center in Sunrise, FL.
Those exact questions and speculation can now be put to rest, as the Panthers formally announced the hiring of Bill Zito as the club’s new General Manager on Wednesday.
Zito, 55, who also happens to be a former attorney, has held a position with the Columbus Blue Jackets since 2013, serving as assistant GM of the franchise for the past seven years under the leadership of the Blue Jackets’ current GM, Jarmo Kekalainen. He has also maintained a position as General Manager of the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate club Cleveland Monsters since 2015.
The Panthers are noted to have had at least 13 interviews for the vacant General Manager’s position, with notable NHL executives Eddie Olczyk, Peter Chiarelli, and George McPhee confirmed to have been among them. Bill Zito was not listed as one of these 13 interviews, and his hiring has come as a shock to many in the hockey world.
Zito does have a fairly impressive resume, however, as the Blue Jackets have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the last four seasons with Kekalainen and Zito at the helm. Before joining the Blue Jackets in 2013, he worked as a player agent for over 20 years and is a co-founder of Acme World Sports, the 6th highest grossing hockey agency in the world as of 2017. As an agent with Acme World Sports, he represented several big-name players such as Brian Rafalski, Tuukka Rask, and Antti Niemi.
Zito has been praised for negotiating reasonable contracts for many high profile players that hired him as an agent. Among these is a 6-year, $38 million contract for Kimmo Timonen in 2007, an 8-year, $56 million contract for Tuukka Rask in 2013 (Rask is entering the final year of this contract with the Boston Bruins in the upcoming season), and a 6-year, $33 million contract for James Wisniewski in 2011.
On the international stage, Zito has done extensive work with USA Hockey, and served as GM of the 2018 USA Men’s Hockey Team who finished 7th in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics after losing in the quarterfinals.
When looking at the experience that Zito has before him, there is only really one more question that needs to be answered: will the Panthers find success with a rookie General Manager calling the shots?
We will have to wait and see.
Featured photo courtesy of 1stOhioBattery.com
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