The Florida Panthers have named Bill Zito as the team’s new general manager, the club announced Wednesday.
“I’m humbled and honoured to accept the position of general manager of the Florida Panthers,” said Zito in a statement.
“My family and I want to thank Matt Caldwell and the Viola Family for their confidence in me for this opportunity with the Panthers. I believe in this organization and I am incredibly proud to be a part of it. Our team has great potential and I look forward to start working together in building something special in South Florida. I can’t wait to get to work.”
The 55-year-old has been an assistant general manager with the Columbus Blue Jackets since 2013. The Yale alum played hockey in Europe before returning to the U.S. for law school at the University of Wisconsin, where he also served as an assistant coach for the Badgers.
He also co-founded Acme World Sports and worked as a player agent for 20 years — representing the likes of Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask, Antti Niemi, Kimmo Timonen and Brian Rafalski — 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.” The Blue Jackets have enjoyed their longest string of success under Kekalainen and Zito’s leadership, reaching the playoffs in each of the last four seasons, and five of the last seven.
“We are thrilled to welcome Bill Zito as general manager of the Florida Panthers,” said Panthers owner Vincent Viola.
“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.”
Zito steps into a role recently vacated by Dale Tallon who split with the team at the beginning of August after the Panthers were swept by the New York Islanders in the qualifying round of the playoffs. The disappointing defeat came after an off-season in which Tallon signed big-ticket free agent Sergei Bobrovsky from the Blue Jackets on a seven-year, $70-million contract.
In the decade that Tallon served in the post, the Panthers made the post-season three times, but still haven’t won a playoff series since the franchise’s lone run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996.