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In this edition of the hotstove, we share our thoughts on who should win the GM of the Year award.
Bill Zito and, with due respect, I’m not sure it’s all that close. At least if we’re just focusing on the last year, where Zito made more successful moves than his competitors.
Florida had a really strong core in place with Sasha Barkov, Jonathan Huberedeau, Aaron Ekblad, Mackenzie Weegar and co. Zito did a tremendous job of surrounding them with quality depth pieces.
Carter Verhaeghe showed promise and had a statistical profile that suggested he could pop with real opportunity. Zito gave him that; and it paid off.
He also bought low on Anthony Duclair and he really provided consistent scoring. Alex Wennberg? Same thing. Zito bought low after a down year in Columbus and his confidence paid off.
I also like the Patric Hornqvist trade considering Mike Matheson is not worth what he’s paid and is locked up for significantly longer.
Zito really could do no wrong. I mean, the Sam Bennett trade seemed a little questionable simply because he was never remotely efficient in Calgary – even when given top-6 time – and he fit like a glove alongside Huberdeau on the 2nd line.
Essentially everything Zito did, worked; and he did a lot. He deserves to be rewarded.
I have to go with Bill Zito. Over the course of the past year, Zito has drastically improved the Panthers through a vast set of trades and signings.
In Free Agency, Zito brought in Carter Verhaeghe, a player who had marginal success with the Lightning but was not qualified. Verhaeghe found immediate chemistry with Barkov and looks to be a top six forward for years to come. Duclair came over in a similar way after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Senators. Both became regulars in the top six for the Panthers. Wennberg was another smart signing who provided some offense to the third line.
Losing an elite defenseman like Ekblad could have sunk the Panthers playoff hopes but acquiring Montour for only a third helped the core. Montour couldn't replicate what Ekblad brought obviously but it was a smart move to add another useful player at minimal cost.
Some thought the Panthers gave up too much to acquire Sam Bennett when they traded effectively two 2nd round picks but now people are wondering how the Flames could ever have handled him so badly watching him anchor the second line in Florida. The best move Zito made by far.
Through in other moves like Gusev, acquiring Hornqvist, and Carlsson and Wallmark and it was a busy year for Zito who helped to make the Panthers a real threat this year. Unfortunately they ran into the Lightning in the first round but despite that Zito did a great job at leaving his mark on this team and is my pick for GM of the Year.