SUNRISE, Fla. — Paul Maurice is the new coach of the Florida Panthers, agreeing on a deal Wednesday to take over a club coming off a season where it had the best record in the NHL and rewrote the franchise’s record book.

The 55-year-old Maurice will be introduced Thursday morning, the Panthers said.

Maurice will replace Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette, who could remain with the organization if he chooses to do so.

Brunette, who played five seasons for the AHL Portland Pirates, took over early last season following the resignation of Joel Quenneville, who had to step down after the revelation of how the Chicago Blackhawks mishandled abuse allegations brought by a player during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs. Quenneville coached Chicago at that time.

Panthers GM Bill Zito, in a statement released through the team, said Maurice’s hiring came after “an in-depth examination of all aspects of our team.”

“After taking the appropriate amount of time for analysis, we determined that we needed the perfect fit to continue with the growth of our players and stay on the path for our franchise goals,” Zito said. “Paul’s experience and intellect were just what we were looking for and we are thrilled for him to step into the role of head coach.”

Advertisement

The Panthers will become the fourth franchise that Maurice coaches. He started in Hartford in 1995, two seasons before that franchise relocated to Carolina. He coached Toronto for two seasons before returning to Carolina, then spent nearly nine years as coach in Winnipeg before stepping down there in December.

“I’ve pushed as long and as hard as I can here. I love these guys. They need a new voice, and I know that,” Maurice said when he left Winnipeg.

Now six months removed from that decision, Maurice is also getting a new start with a team that believes it is a Stanley Cup contender.

Florida won the Presidents’ Trophy this season and reached the second round of the playoffs, winning a postseason series for the first time since 1996. Brunette was a coach of the year finalist in his first head-coaching stint at the NHL level, finishing as runner-up to Calgary’s Darryl Sutter for the Jack Adams Award.

That wasn’t enough to get him the job long term, nor was support from Panthers players, including captain Aleksander Barkov among others.

Instead, the Panthers are turning to Maurice – who is fourth on the NHL’s all-time games coached list with 1,684, seventh on the all-time wins list with 775, but has never led a team to the Stanley Cup. He got Carolina to the title series in 2002, but the Hurricanes lost in five games to the Detroit Red Wings.

Advertisement

Florida, over the last three combined seasons, ranks second in the NHL in wins (130) and standings-points-per-game (1.35) – behind only Colorado on both of those lists. The Avalanche have 137 wins and average 1.41 standings points per game over that span.

The Panthers also set team records this season in numerous categories, including wins (58) and goals (340). Jonathan Huberdeau became the first Panthers player with a 100-point season, the team went 34-7-0 at home, started the year with eight consecutive wins and added a 13-game winning streak later in the season.

Florida wound up getting swept by Tampa Bay in the second round, and a month later, Maurice has now been brought on-board to see where he can take the Panthers next season and beyond.

WILD: The Minnesota Wild signed left wing Connor Dewar to a two-year, $1.6 million contract, coming off his rookie season.

Dewar made his NHL debut on Oct. 28 and played in 35 games, with two goals, four assists and 48 hits while playing on the fourth line. .

BLACKHAWKS: The Chicago Blackhawks promoted Meghan Hunter to assistant general manger among several front office moves, making her the third woman to currently hold that position and fourth in NHL history.

GM Brandon Davidson announced Hunter’s promotion and other front office moves. Karilyn Pilch was also promoted to director of player personnel, and Mark Eaton will remain assistant GM of development and Brian Campbell will keep his role as hockey operations adviser.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.