In speaking with Florida Panthers president Matt Caldwell Tuesday, I asked him if he had spoken with Bill Zito of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“He’s on the list, yep,’’ Caldwell said.
According to NHL Insider Elliott Friedman of Sportsnet, the Panthers are “closing in” on Zito to become the 11th general manager in franchise history.
Frank Seravelli of TSN said the deal was done.
Bill Zito will be the next GM of the #FlaPanthers, announcement coming on Wednesday.
Most recently assistant GM with #CBJ, Zito is a former player agent with a sharp mind and a no-nonsense style and approach.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) September 2, 2020
The Panthers are expecting to name Dale Tallon’s replacement as early as Wednesday.
Although Zito now jumps to the head of the prospective class, it is believed Caldwell and the Panthers are still in talks with others about the job.
Caldwell, about an hour before the Friedman tweet, said as much himself.
Zito, however, checks a number of boxes Caldwell and the Panthers are looking for.
First, Caldwell said there were a number of assistant general managers in the NHL who were ready to take the next step and take over their own team.
Zito, a former player agent who founded Acme World Sports, has been the right-hand man to Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen (whose brother Jari is one of Florida’s top scouts) the past seven years.
He had successfully run the Jackets’ AHL team in Cleveland the past few years with the Monsters winning the league championship in 2016.
Of the success the Jackets have had over the past few seasons, a lot of the players on the team have been homegrown — with many coming up through Zito’s team in Cleveland.
Zito was also general manager for Team USA at the world championships in 2018.
He has been linked to a number of NHL general manager jobs over the past few years and it appears he may just get a chance to put his stamp on the Panthers.