Wednesday: The Panthers have officially announced the hire, introducing Zito as the team’s next general manager. In the release, owner Vincent Viola included an explanation for the move:
We are thrilled to welcome Bill Zito as General Manager of the Florida Panthers. Bill is an excellent mind in our game today who proved during his time with the Columbus Blue Jackets that he possesses great prowess for evaluating talent and building success. He brings great experience to our club and possesses a strong business acumen.
Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports that Zito received a five-year contract from the Panthers, quite a commitment as the team tries to figure out the roster and return to the playoffs.
Tuesday: After all the hype in recent weeks over Florida’s ongoing search for their next general manager – a list of candidates that included executives and scouts from a number of teams as well as several television analysts – it seems the team will in fact go with a name that had not been publicly mentioned. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that the Panthers are closing in on a deal to make Columbus Blue Jackets Associate GM Bill Zito their next GM. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun adds that a formal announcement is expected on Wednesday.
Zito, 55, has served as an executive for the Blue Jackets since 2013. Initially an assistant GM, Zito eventually took on the role of GM of the club’s AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters, and this season was elevated to Associate GM and Sr. VP of Hockey Operations. Prior to his time with Columbus, Zito was a player agent and one of the founders of Acme World Sports.
Now joining the Panthers, replacing Dale Tallon as GM, Zito has his work cut out for him. Fortunately, his familiarity with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky could help the veteran to settle in during year two after a disastrous first season with the Panthers. More reliable results in net would be a major step for Florida. The team also needs to improve its defense while finding a way to re-sign or replace top forwards Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov. The Florida Panthers have not won a playoff series since 1996, the worst drought in the NHL, and Zito’s task will be to put together a contender and end that sorry streak as soon as possible.