SUNRISE, Fla. - The National Hockey League announced today that Florida Panthers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Bill Zito has been named a finalist for the 2023-24 Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award presented annually 'to the League’s most outstanding general manager.' The other finalists for the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award are Jim Nill (Dallas Stars) and Patrik Allvin (Vancouver Canucks). 

The Panthers entered the 2023-24 campaign missing three key pieces of the lineup suffering lingering injuries from Florida’s Stanley Cup Final run the prior year, with Sam Bennett, Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour all missing significant time to start the season. Despite this, Florida started the season 12-5-1 and would go on to secure the Panthers second Atlantic Division title under Zito’s four-year tenure, following Florida’s Presidents’ Trophy campaign in 2021-22. 

Zito set to work last offseason looking to solidify the Panthers depth and defense. The Panthers would go on to post the lowest goals against per game (2.41) and shots against per game (27.8) in one season in club history. The Cats tied for the league lead with a club record 26 road wins, including an 11-game road win streak from Dec. 27 to Feb. 20 that was one shy of the NHL record. Florida also led the league in penalty kill success rate (86.9%) on the road. All six Panthers defensemen who skated in at least 50 games this season produced a positive plus/minus rating.  

Sergei Bobrovsky earned his third career Vezina Trophy nomination, tying for the league lead with six shutouts, and free-agent acquisition Anthony Stolarz led all goaltenders who had played at least 25 games with a career-best .925 save percentage and 2.03 goals against average. Gustav Forsling, claimed off waivers just prior to the start of the 2020-21 campaign, led all NHL skaters with a franchise record plus-56 rating, one of six skaters to finish a season over plus-50 in the salary cap era (since 2005-06) and led Florida blueliners this season with 10 goals, 39 points and a career-high 29 assists. Finally, team captain Aleksander Barkov secured his second career Frank J. Selke Trophy after leading all skaters who competed in at least 70 games this season in on-ice goals for percentage at five-on-five play (69.7%). 

Several other offseason acquisitions contributed to Florida’s strong performance in 2023-24: Oliver Ekman-Larsson was nominated for the Bill Masterton Trophy and ranked second among Florida’s defensemen with nine goals, and his 32 points (9-23-32) ranked third among the group, his highest point total since 2018-19; Niko Mikkola skated in all 82 games, setting career highs in assists (14) and points (17) while leading the Panthers in hits (198) and blocked shots (124); Evan Rodrigues skated in 80 games and tied for sixth-most points on the Panthers; Kevin Stenlund logged career highs in games played (81), goals (11) and points (15), leading Florida forwards in shorthanded time on ice (212:10); Jonah Gadjovich led Florida in hits per 60 minutes (16.97); and former Panther Dmitry Kulikov was brought back into the fold, recording his most assists (19) in a season since his 2014-15 campaign in South Florida.  

Zito acquisitions from prior seasons also thrived in 2023-24. Sam Reinhart led Florida with a career high 57 goals, the most in club history since Pavel Bure’s 58 and 59 in 1999-00 and 2000-01, respectively, producing a career-high 94 points (57-37-94). He also posted a club-record 27 power-play goals and tied for second-most shorthanded goals (5) among all skaters, registering the clubs’ longest-ever goal streak (eight games) from Jan. 2 to Jan. 17. Matthew Tkachuk led Florida with 62 assists (26-62-88), and Carter Verhaeghe notched a career-high 38 helpers, logging his second consecutive season with at least 30 goals (34). Sam Bennett reached 20 goals and 40 points for the second time in his career despite missing 13 games.

At the 2024 trade deadline, Zito added veterans Kyle Okposo and Stanley Cup champion Vladimir Tarasenko to bolster the lineup heading into Florida’s fifth consecutive postseason. The Panthers will participate in their second consecutive Eastern Conference Final looking to defend their Prince of Wales Trophy from 2022-23.  

Zito becomes the first general manager to be named a finalist for the Jim Gregory award in three of their first four seasons with a team, and the sixth GM to be a finalist at least three times, joining Bob Murray, Marc Bergevin, Steve Yzerman, David Poile and Jim Nill. Zito was previously a finalist in 2022-23 and 2020-21. 

2024 Florida Panthers Stanley Cup Playoff single game tickets are on sale now! Single game tickets can be purchased at SeatGeek.com or at Amerant Bank Arena Box Office (Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Florida Panthers 2024-25 Territory Memberships are available now. Visit FloridaPanthers.com/TerritoryMemberships to learn more, call the PUCK line (954.835.PUCK) or fill out this interest form.