The Florida Panthers have announced that Bill Zito will be the 11th general manager in franchise history.
Zito, 55, had been with the Blue Jackets’ since 2013 and served as associate GM and senior vice president of hockey operations after leaving the agency he founded, Acme World Sports. He replaces Dale Tallon, whose contract expired this season.
According to Panthers CEO Matthew Caldwell, Zito’s contract is for five years.
“We are thrilled to welcome Bill Zito as General Manager of the Florida Panthers,” said Panthers owner Vinnie Viola in a statement. “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.”
Over the last seven years Zito has played an big role in building the Blue Jackets. He ran their AHL team in Cleveland, which won the Calder Cup in 2016, and has since seen a number of players make an impact with the NHL side, like Josh Anderson, Joonas Korpisalo and Oliver Bjorkstrand. On the international side, he’s been a part of two bronze medal winning USA Hockey entries at the IIHF World Championship. In 2015 he was part of the management team and in 2018 was the team’s GM.
Bittersweet day. Very happy for my longtime friend Bill Zito for this opportunity he deserves and worked so hard for. Sad to see him and his family leave, we will miss them… Best of luck, just not against us;-)
— Jarmo Kekalainen (@jkekalainen) September 2, 2020
Zito comes into the job with plenty of work to do to turn around the franchise. Unrestricted free agents this off-season include Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Brian Boyle, and Mark Pysyk. Florida has a little over $20M in cap space, per CapFriendly, but how much will Viola want to spend as the global COVID-19 pandemic continues and revenues drop?
The Panthers have made the postseason only twice in the last eight seasons and have not won a playoff round since 1996. This season they had a 35-26-8 record before the March pause and were knocked out in the Stanley Cup Qualifying Round by the Islanders in four games.