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FHN Today: Florida Panthers Bill Zito talks trades in virtual NHL draft



Nhl draft trades
The floor at Rogers Arena in Vancouver is brimming with activity a few hours before the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft is held. // Photo by @GeorgeRichards

In normal times, the NHL draft is basically a convention for hockey folks. Teams rent hotel space, draft prospects and their families (and agents) roam the host city as do NHL executives, coaches and those who need a job. It is here where people like Florida Panthers GM Bill Zito get things — we’re talking trades — done.

For a second consecutive summer, the NHL draft will be held virtually.

There is no draft floor, per say, but neither is there a hotel lobby where people gather to chat nor a hidden away lounge where an NHL general manager can slip in undetected and talk about a deal with one of their peers.

Any deals that get made during this year’s NHL draft — which kicks off with the first round tonight — will be done over the phone. As is the case during the trade deadline, GMs around the league are on their phones basically non stop.

Offers are being made and being rejected. Or accepted.

How many trades will be made will be made known soon enough.

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This is Zito’s second time running a draft for the Panthers and both have been done from the comforts of South Florida. Tonight, Zito will be working the first round from the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club before the team’s so-called war room relocates to the BB&T Center for the bulk of the draft on Saturday.

Zito has been part of many traditional drafts not only in his years in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ front office but in his time as an agent.

He has seen deals go down in coffee shops, hotel lobby bars and, of course, on the draft floor itself.

While this draft will be different than in past years, trades will get done. How many, of course, remains to be seen.

“On a typical draft day, you’ll see Ron Francis get up and go over to talk to Julien BriseBois and you say ‘uh-oh, I better get over there and get in on that’ if I think I know what’s happening or if I had spoken to both of those guys that morning,” Zito said.

”You certainly miss the frenetic pace in the days leading up to the draft. (Thursday) would be the day where the young men are being paraded around town for those last interviews and you would be meeting with your cohorts for a coffee to talk a trade or what have you. Seeing (the media), saying hello and checking in … I miss that. I think a lot of people do.”

On Friday, Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now, reached out to his sources to check on the market for some of the NHL’s perceived top trade targets: St. Louis winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

While most casual hockey fans may not know the names of those being drafted this weekend, most will be watching to see if any trades go down.

Not long after publication, the Flyers made a big deal with the Sabres — acquiring Rasmus Ristolainen for Robert Hagg as well as a first and second-round pick.

Read about it HERE at Philly Hockey Now. 


The Panthers will have a scenic backdrop as they hold their NHL draft experience at the Fort Lauderdale Yacht Club. Hopefully some of the boats will be lit up. Picking as low as they are, it’ll definitely be dark when the Panthers are called to make their selection. (FHN)

— Who are the Panthers going to play in 2021-22? Well, everyone. Here is when and where they will play — at least for now. (FHN)

— In case you missed it yesterday, Bill Zito thanks Chris Driedger for everything he gave the Panthers the past few seasons. (FHN)

— The Charlotte Checkers will finally play their first season with the Panthers as their partner. On Friday, they unveiled their 2021-22 schedule. (Charlotte Checkers)

— Speaking of the draft, who could the Panthers take in the first round? (Panthers)


Steve Yzerman got his goalie on Thursday as the Red Wings pulled Alex Nedeljkovic out of Carolina for a song. He played some pretty good games against the Panthers this past season and now he’s in the Atlantic. (DHN)

— The South Florida Coyotes? Arizona gets Shayne Gostisbehere for nothing as the Flyers shed some payroll as well as some draft picks. He joins fellow former Jr. Panther Jakob Chychrun in the desert. (PHN) 

— The Islanders have interest in both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.(NYIHN)

— The Penguins ended up losing two players in the expansion draft but GM Ron Hextall is good with it. (PHN) 

— Defenseman Alec Martinez is deciding on an offer from the Knights. Stay or go? (VHN) 

— Why has Bruins GM Don Sweeney been gun shy on pulling off a big deal? (BHN)

— Due to injury, Matt Calvert had to call an early retirement on Thursday. (CHN)

— Upper Deck is giving away some free cards this weekend. (SJHN)



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