After firing coach Bob Boughner following just two seasons behind the bench, the Florida Panthers have quickly targeted three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville as his successor, a source with knowledge of the talks told ESPN.
The Panthers asked for and received permission from the Chicago Blackhawks to speak to Quenneville. Chicago fired him on Nov. 6, 2018. He was the longest-tenured coach in the NHL at the time of his firing, having coached the Blackhawks since 2008. He is the second-winningest coach in NHL history, compiling 890 wins with St. Louis, Colorado and Chicago; only Scotty Bowman (1,244) has more.
The Panthers have offered Quenneville a multiyear contract worth in excess of $6 million annually with bonuses. Currently, Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs is the NHL's highest-paid coach at around $6.25 million (U.S.) annually.
There's reason to believe Quenneville might be interested in the Florida job despite the Panthers' lack of success on the ice, having made the playoffs just twice since 2001 and missing them for three straight seasons: General manager Dale Tallon was the man who hired Quenneville in Chicago.
Boughner was fired after a 4-3 loss to the Devils on Saturday night finished a 36-32-14 season. The Panthers ended up fifth in the Atlantic Division and 12 points out of the final wild-card spot.
The Panthers also fired assistant coach Paul McFarland.
"We made a tough decision today and have relieved Bob Boughner of his duties as head coach," Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said in a statement. "We didn't meet expectations this season and share responsibility for that fact. After careful evaluation, we have determined that this is a necessary first step for our young team and we will seek to identify a transformative, experienced head coach with Stanley Cup pedigree to lead our team going forward. We're grateful to Bob, Paul and their families for their hard work and their dedication to the Panthers organization and we wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors."
Needless to say, Quenneville has a Stanley Cup pedigree, leading Chicago to wins in 2010, 2013 and 2015.
Boughner, a former NHL defenseman, got the Panthers job after the team parted ways with Gerard Gallant and finished the 2016-17 season with interim coach Tom Rowe. Boughner, 48, didn't have previous head-coaching experience in the NHL. He won the Memorial Cup twice as coach of the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL.
Gallant landed with the expansion Vegas Golden Knights and took them to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season and to another playoff berth this season.
Boughner went 43-30-8 in his first season but missed the playoffs by one point.
This season, the Panthers wasted a big season by Aleksander Barkov, who set a club record with 96 points. The Panthers had three 30-goal scorers but finished with a minus-13 goal differential, a product of an .891 team save percentage, ranked 30th in the NHL. But this offseason could be one of the most paradigm-shifting ones in franchise history. Not only are they in the race for Quenneville, but there's speculation that prized Columbus Blue Jackets free agents -- forward Artemi Panarin and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky -- could be end up on the Panthers. Panarin, for one, has a residence in Miami.