To the surprise of no one, Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito has been named one of the three finalists for the Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award.
Zito was joined as a finalist with Montreal’s Marc Bergevin and Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders.
The Panthers named Zito their new GM in September after the contract of Dale Tallon was not renewed.
Zito, the former assistant and associate GM of the Columbus Blue Jackets, quickly went to work rebuilding the Florida roster around the likes of Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau, Aaron Ekblad and Sergei Bobrovsky.
By the time he was done, the Florida lineup had been transformed; going into the playoffs, the Panthers were running out 10 players who were not with the team last year.
Zito’s first big move came weeks into his tenure as the team’s new general manager, trading defenseman Mike Matheson and forward Colton Sceviour to Pittsburgh for Patric Hornqvist.
At the draft, Zito brought in Anton Lundell with the No. 12 pick.
During free agency, Zito signed Alex Wennberg, Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe, Ryan Lomberg and Radko Gudas.
Of all the moves Zito and the Panthers made during the offseason — and, throughout it — only a couple did not pan out. The majority did, however, and the Panthers ended up placing second in the Central Division a point back of the Carolina Hurricanes.
“I’m going to give Bill all the credit for doing what he had to do,” said coach Joel Quenneville, who will be a finalist for the league’s coach of the year award.
“He kept me informed every step of the way. We had some input, but at the end of the day, Bill was the guy pulling the trigger and doing the work and figuring it out.
“But he gets the credit for these acquisitions that have been outstanding. It has been a good first year for him. He has done a lot of great things.”
In other award news, Quenneville is up for the Jack Adams Award which goes to the NHL’s Coach of the Year; that will be announced tonight.
Barkov is a finalist for the Selke Trophy for the top defensive forward in the league and that will be announced on Friday.