Panthers’ Zito Snubbed in GM of the Year Award Nominations

The NHL announced the Jim Gregory award nominees for best general manager this past Tuesday, June 21. Those nominees were Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien Briesbois, New York Rangers general manager Chris Drury, and Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic. Of course, all of those are deserving for their accomplishments, but the fact that Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito isn’t at the very least nominated is shameful. With everything he’s done this past offseason and at the deadline, considering the award is supposed to be based on regular season performance, he should’ve been given a call.

Zito’s Moves are Jim Gregory Worthy

What Zito did this past offseason made the Panthers a potential powerhouse for seasons to come. Trade wise, he acquired former Buffalo Sabres forward Sam Reinhart. He ended up having the best season of his career with a career high 82 points (33 goals, 49 assists), averaging a point a game. Those totals made for second on the team in goals and third on the team in points and assists. Additionally, he led the team in power-play goals with 16. In the playoffs, he was the only player to score a power-play goal.

Bill Zito Columbus Blue Jackets
General Manager Bill Zito of the Florida Panthers (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Re-signing wise, he managed to bring back some big depth pieces in forwards Anthony Duclair, Carter Verhaeghe, and Sam Bennett, along with defensemen Gustav Forsling and Brandon Montour. But one of the biggest moves of all was extending the franchise face in captain Aleksander Barkov to an 8-year, $80 million deal. A move that showed they were committed to him leading the charge.

Draft wise, he ended up drafting a Finnish player who was considered a dark horse candidate for the Calder trophy in forward Anton Lundell. In his first NHL season, he piled up a total 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists), which made for fifth among rookies in that category. In addition, he was given a massive role as a penalty killer in just his first season, showing confidence in the rookie’s ability.

Related: Panthers Must Sign Huberdeau to an Extension This Offseason

At the deadline, he bolstered up the team with cup winning potential, such as bringing in former Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux. As a Panther, he averaged over a point per game in 18 games, scoring three goals and helping with 20 more. In addition, he tallied eight points (three goals, five assists) in 10 playoff appearances, making him second on the team in playoff points this past postseason.

While they were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs, Zito did everything he could to bolster the lineup for a deep playoff run and a potential Stanley Cup to be brought to Broward County.

“It’s pretty raw. It is surreal coming here this morning and thinking that we’re supposed to be playing.”

– Bill Zito

All in all, it helped lead the team to their best season in franchise history with a record of 58-18-6 with 122 points. In addition, it was the best record in the NHL this season, which gave the team the Presidents’ Trophy.

What Does Zito Have to Do to Sniff the Award?

Zito did so much this past offseason and trade deadline to prepare this team for a deep playoff run. In addition, he opened up a Stanley Cup window for the team, as they could be competitive for years to come. As previously mentioned, what he has done should not take away from the nomination and accomplishments of the nominees. However, the fact that most of the awards are based off of regular season play is a slap in the face to Zito for being snubbed as he built the Panthers for the best record this past season.

Related: The Résumé of New Panthers Head Coach Paul Maurice

Of course, the team may be going through some cap troubles, as they only have $3 million to work with in cap. But the general manager has already gotten to work by hiring a new head coach in Paul Maurice. He may not have been nominated this year, but he’s already trying to full on win the award next season.

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