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Happy Anniversary! Bill Zito Reflects on Time with Florida Panthers

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Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito, left, speaks alongside captain Sasha Barkov at a press conference announcing Barkov’s new eight-year, $80 million contract extension on Oct. 8, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito was in a good mood Friday morning when he spoke to FHN about his first three seasons with the team.

And it really did not have much to do being excited about an upcoming season nor the three-year anniversary of becoming the 11th GM in franchise history coming the following day.

No, Bill Zito was just enjoying his time as a dad, driving his family up to Orlando for a Labor Day weekend hockey tournament that his son Billy — who wears Matthew Tkachuk’s No. 19 for the Jr. Panthers — is playing in.

Saturday marked the third anniversary of the day the Panthers officially announced Zito as their new general manager following an intense (and mostly virtual) monthlong search by team president Matt Caldwell.

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“Some days it feels like I have been here forever,’’ Zito said, “and then others it feels like I just got here.”

Since that day in 2020, Zito has upturned the roster — his first trade which brought in Patric Hornqvist was made two weeks into his tenure — and success has followed.

Florida has been a playoff team in each of the past three years for the first time in franchise history with a Presidents’ Trophy in 2022 and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final last season.

While Zito has been a finalist for GM of the Year in two of his three years, he knows better than anyone there is plenty of work still to be done to get the Panthers where they ultimately want to be.

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