Florida Panthers hire ex-Winnipeg Jets coach Paul Maurice

TAMPA, Fla. -- Paul Maurice has been hired as the new head coach of the Florida Panthers, replacing interim coach Andrew Brunette, the team announced Wednesday.

"At the completion of our season, we began 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," Panthers general manager Bill Zito said in a statement. "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."

Maurice, 55, stepped down from the Winnipeg Jets after 29 games this season, ending a nine-year stint with the franchise. He has coached 1,685 regular-season NHL games, the fourth most in NHL history, and is seventh in career wins with 775. He previously coached the Jets, Carolina Hurricanes, Hartford Whalers and Toronto Maple Leafs.

That experience was a key factor in his hiring in Florida, according to a source. While other coaching candidates were rumored, the Panthers zeroed in on Maurice when there was mutual interest, vetting him on everything from his player management to his on-ice tactics.

Brunette replaced Joel Quenneville as head coach on Oct. 29, 2021. Quenneville resigned after a report was released that detailed how the Chicago Blackhawks mishandled allegations that a player was sexually abused by an assistant coach in 2010, when Quenneville was the team's head coach.

Brunette was on track to receive a contract extension heading into the Stanley Cup playoffs. He led the Panthers to the franchise's first Presidents' Trophy as the top regular-season team in the league. They were the NHL's highest-scoring team since the 1995-96 season. Brunette became the first interim coach since Craig Berube of the St. Louis Blues in 2019 to earn a Jack Adams nomination.

The Panthers eliminated the Washington Capitals in six games for the franchise's first playoff series win since 1996. But the Panthers were swept by the rival Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round, scoring just three goals in the series. Brunette's coaching decisions were questioned, leading the Panthers to explore other options in the offseason.

It's expected that Brunette will be offered a chance to remain with the organization.

Maurice signed a multiyear contract.