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Torrey will guide Panthers' search

by Dan Rosen

"I would say I'm going to look at all of those who are interested and I will weigh them as carefully as I can and then make my recommendation.  I want someone with knowledge of the League and an understanding of what we have here going forth."
-- Bill Torrey on selecting the next General Manager of the Florida Panthers

Hall of Fame manager Bill Torrey will select Jacques Martin's successor, but Torrey, who turns 75 this month, insists he won't choose the man he sees in the mirror every morning to be the next general manager of the Florida Panthers.

Torrey, the architect of the New York Islanders’ early 1980s dynasty and the 1996 Panthers, who won the Eastern Conference title, won't be coming out of retirement.

"I think I have served my time as a general manager and I know where I am in this world and in this life," Torrey, the Panthers' alternate governor, said a conference call Monday. "My heart is with this franchise and I want to see a good choice come along."

Torrey has been tasked with this plum assignment by Panthers' owner/general partner Alan Cohen because Martin resigned his position as Florida's GM to become the head coach of the Montreal Canadiens.

Panthers' President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Yormark said Monday that approximately 10 days ago Cohen granted permission for Montreal GM Bob Gainey to speak with Martin, who was hired Sunday and announced as the Habs’ new coach Monday.

Yormark confirmed that the Panthers will not receive compensation for Martin from Montreal by saying, "The Canadiens asked for permission to speak with Jacques. We talked to Jacques, granted that permission and that was the terms of the deal."

Torrey will report directly to Cohen, while assistant GM Randy Sexton, coach Peter DeBoer and Director of Amateur Scouting Scott Luce will work together "to make sure we're prepared for the upcoming NHL draft and the beginning of the free agency period," Yormark said.

"Randy Sexton is the point person on all hockey operations matters and will work closely with Peter as to how we construct our team moving forward. He will be working closely with Scott Luce in preparation for NHL draft."

Torrey said he wants to find a replacement for Martin "as quickly as we possibly can," but whoever it is has to come in knowing that the staff is firmly in place. DeBoer, who was hired by Martin before last season, isn't going anywhere. Neither is Luce.

This is actually going to be one of those rare cases when the coach has a say in who his boss is going to be.

"We're going to forth with clear understanding that Peter is here and did an outstanding job last year in bringing this team along," Torrey said. "We're going to find someone who is comfortable with that and happy to work with that. The same thing is we have Scott Luce and he is in place and has done a great job. In this particular place we have people in place that are going to go forth and we have to find someone who is very comfortable with that and is happy with that."

Sexton, a former GM in Ottawa during the mid-1990s, could be a candidate.

"I would say I'm going to look at all of those who are interested and I will weigh them as carefully as I can and then make my recommendation," Torrey said. "I want someone with knowledge of the League and an understanding of what we have here going forth."

As for how this affects the Panthers' attempts to re-sign defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who will be one of the most coveted unrestricted free agents on the market if he remains unsigned come July 1, is still unknown.

Sexton said with Martin's permission, he spoke with Bouwmeester's agent, Bryon Baltimore, late last week.

"I don't think it's appropriate to comment on club/agent/player conversation," Sexton said. "We have a plan in place and we'll do our best to make that happen."

After listening to Torrey sing his praises and mention how safe he is in his job, DeBoer showed no signs of anxiety on Monday's conference call despite the uncertainty surrounding the team and his future roster.

"I think it's in real capable hands," DeBoer said. "I think with the people we have in place that are on this call right now, plus Scott Luce, I'm real comfortable that we're not going to drop any balls here."

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