SUNRISE, Fla. – They searched high and low, near and far, but the Florida Panthers may have found their guy.
After interviewing over a dozen candidates and narrowing the list down to a select few, the general manager’s office left vacant by the departure of Dale Tallon is about to have a new resident.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was the first to report that Columbus Blue Jackets assistant general manager Bill Zito will be hired as Florida’s new GM.
A formal announcement is expected on Wednesday.
Zito’s candidacy was first reported by Florida Hockey Now’s George Richards.
The list of contenders for the vacant role was quite extensive and reportedly included Washington Capitals assistant GM Ross Mahoney, Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis, former Edmonton Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli, Montreal Canadiens assistant GM Scott Mellanby, assistant GM of the St. Louis Blues Bill Armstrong, NHL Network broadcaster Kevin Weekes, former Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall, former Maple Leafs assistant GM Mark Hunter, executive director of player personnel for the Boston Bruins John Ferguson Jr., former Los Angeles Kings assistant GM Mike Futa, assistant GM for the Toronto Maple Leafs Laurence Gilman, Canadiens scout Sean Burke, and former player and coach Ed Olczyk.
Zito, 55, was hired as the Blue Jackets’ assistant GM in 2013 and was named general manager of their AHL club two years later. Before joining Columbus, Zito co-founded Acme World Sports and spent two decades working as a player agent.
He will become the 11th general manger in franchise history, and only the third to hold that responsibility under the ownership of Vincent Viola, who purchased the team in 2013.
During Tallon’s tenure in Sunrise, the Panthers qualified for the postseason just twice (2012 and 2016) and were eliminated from this year’s Stanley Cup Qualifying Round in four games by the New York Islanders last month in Toronto.
The Blue Jackets have enjoyed consistent success under the watchful eyes of Zito and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. Columbus has made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons despite dealing with injuries and a fluctuating roster.