Greg Wyshynski: Now that Jason Botterill is in Buffalo and Julien BriseBois has finally taken over in Tampa Bay, my next “assistant general manager destined for greatness in the big chair” is Bill Zito.
Currently the assistant GM with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Zito has been honing his craft since 2013, when he moved into hockey management after years as an agent for players like Tim Thomas and Kimmo Timonen. He’s handled contract matters and cap issues with the Jackets, while also running player personnel for their AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters. He was also the general manager for Team USA, which won bronze at the 2018 IIHF World Championships, and is now part of USA Hockey’s braintrust. Also, he looks like he could win a bar fight, which would immediately endear him to the masses in Philly. He’s interviewed for other vacancies, but he recently signed a contract extension with the Blue Jackets.
Who will take over as general manager for the Flyers? It’s hard not to imagine a scenario where Chris Pronger, the apple of president Paul Holmgren’s eye, leaves his front office post with the Florida Panthers and takes over in Philadelphia as a proxy for upper management. They love his leadership. They love his charisma. And if part of the “shared philosophy” impasse with Hextall was about a lack of grit/jam/truculence from this incarnation of the Flyers, there’s no doubt that Pronger’s view of things would be more in line with that of Holmgren and senior vice president Bobby Clarke.
Emily Kaplan: I asked a hockey person I trust to identify a few picks for a new GM (not specifically for Philadelphia). I wanted to know who might not be the front-runner for a job right now but would be really good if given the chance.
A few names he suggested? Sean Burke, the former NHL goaltender who is making his way up in hockey operations (he recently served as the GM for Team Canada during the 2018 Olympics). Also Mike Futa, the Los Angeles Kings assistant general manager. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Futa’s name as a rising star; he has built a reputation for drafting and developing the team’s prospect pool over the past decade. Futa was linked to the Carolina Hurricanes‘ GM opening this past offseason, but took his name out of consideration. The Kings promoted Futa in 2017 to keep him in the organization.
Who do I think will get the job? Former Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher is reportedly already a front-runner, and I don’t think that’s a bad pick at all. Over nine seasons, Fletcher built a terrific, balanced roster in Minnesota. His contract was not renewed last summer, but it wasn’t due to a lack of success: the team had six consecutive postseason appearances but couldn’t get over the playoff hump. New GM Paul Fenton barely touched Fletcher’s roster this offseason, and once again the Wild are off to a great start: second place in the Central Division. Hextall did strong work building up the Flyers’ prospect pool, and Fletcher would have the right seasoning to know when to promote the top prospects.