By: Eli Zemach
After a disappointing result in the NHL playoff bubble last year in the 2019-2020 season, the Florida Panthers decided it was time to make some moves. After their removal of general manager, Dale Tallon, and the hiring of new general manager Bill Zito, the Panthers went on to make more than just one advantageous acquisition. With that being said, lets examine some of Bill Zito’s moves up to this point.
The Florida Panthers are sitting at a solid record of 27-12-4 for 7th in the league in overall points and are 3rd in the central division. This new-found success is due in large part to the unpredictably active Bill Zito. After bringing in notable talents like Patrick Hornqvist and Carter Verhaeghe over the summer and having the best first half of a season in recent memory, Zito decided this wasn’t enough as the Panthers began their playoff push.
At the trade deadline Zito signed Nikita Gusev as a free agent on a prorated deal ($1X1), and traded for Brandon Montour from the Buffalo Sabres for a 3rd round pick, and Sam Bennett for a second-round pick and prospect Emil Heineman.
Undoubtedly, the Florida Panthers are in my top 3 for trade deadline winners this year. Zito’s deadline moves were low-risk, high reward moves targeting weaknesses the team has faced throughout the year.
Sam Bennett falls into that 2nd/3rd line center spot that their center depth desperately needed. Additionally, Brandon Montour’s offensive ability fills the gaping hole Aaron Ekblad’s season ending injury created and Nikita Gusev is a former 40+ point scorer that can find the back of the net regularly in this lineup.
Bill Zito has shown that he’s not afraid to make roster moves at any time and is changing the face of the Florida Panthers franchise. With over 8 offseason moves prior to the season, and over 4 trade deadline moves during the season, it’s clear that Zito’s vision for the Florida panthers involves new faces, new talent, and a new level of competition.
As mentioned, the Florida Panthers currently sit 3rd in the Discover Central NHL division, trailing the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning with 59 points. The effectiveness of the moves Zito has made so far during his tenure with the Florida Panthers will be tested throughout their final 12 games and into the playoffs this summer.