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CHANGE AT TOP: Mike Santos To Leave Florida Panthers

TWITTER: @GeorgeRichards

The Panthers front office was shook up a little Tuesday as assistant general manager Mike Santos was told he wouldn't be returning next season.

General manager Dale Tallon said before Florida's 3-2 shootout win over the visiting Senators that Santos, his assistant GM since 2010, would not have his contract renewed and was free to find employment elsewhere.

Santos has been general manager of Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio and was instrumental in the team's handling of contracts and bringing in a number of free agents.

"I thought about it long and hard,'' Tallon said. "I feel we need to go in a different direction, I need a different set of eyes, another opinion, different ideas. It was a tough decision, have gone back-and-forth the past couple months.''

With Tallon scouting last week, Santos traveled with the Panthers on their West Coast road trip.

Tallon, who lives next door to Santos off Fort Lauderdale beach, informed him of the news on Tuesday morning.

Tallon said the move was made now -- Santos is signed with the Panthers through June 30 -- so he could potentially find work elsewhere before the NHL draft.

"He can have conversations now with other teams about future employment,'' Tallon said.

Mike Dixon and Eric Joyce from hockey operations will take on more responsibility as will Tallon.

"We'll have an extensive search but haven't even looked at candidates,'' Tallon said.

Travis Viola, son of team owner Vinnie, was named a Vice President of hockey operations prior to the start of the season which made it look like Santos' future with the team in jeopardy.

Tallon said Santos' future with the Panthers is not tied to that of interim coach Peter Horachek.

Horachek and Santos worked together with the Nashville Predators before Santos hired him to coach San Antonio over the summer.

Horachek, who took over the Panthers in November, is expected to seek a three-year deal from the Panthers once the season is complete although Tallon and Florida's management team could go a different direction there as well.

Tallon said a decision on Horachek's future could come as late as May after he, Vinnie Viola and new CEO Rory Babich analyze the franchise.

 

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