Panthers hire former Montreal assistant Gerard Gallant as head coach

Gerard Gallant was an assistant for the Panthers' then-minor league affiliate, the Louisville Panthers (AHL) during the 1999-2000 season.

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After a lengthy search, the Florida Panthers have their next head coach.

The team announced Saturday it has hired former Montreal Canadiens assistant coach Gerard Gallant to serve in the role. He will be formally introduced Monday at 11 a.m.

"He is an individual with tremendous character, integrity and a strong passion for the game and has experience as an NHL head coach," general manager Dale Tallon said. "Gerard is an excellent teacher and motivator who possesses the leadership qualities and hockey knowledge that are necessary to lead our team."

This is the second time Gallant has been part of Florida’s organization. He served as an assistant for the Louisville Panthers (AHL) during the 1999-2000 season, at the time the club’s minor-league affiliate.

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Gallant served as the Columbus Blue Jackets head coach from 2003-06 before joining the New York Islanders as an assistant for two seasons.

He returned to the head coaching ranks in junior hockey from 2009-12, guiding the Saint John Sea Dogs to two QMJHL championships and a Memorial Cup title.

During his stint in Saint John, he compiled a 159-34-9 record along with three first-place regular season finishes.

Gallant coached Jonathan Huberdeau, Florida’s top pick in 2011, during that stretch.

The 50-year-old becomes the 13th head coach in Panthers history and the fourth under Tallon.

Last season, Florida fired head coach Kevin Dineen in November after the team got off to a 3-9-4 start. He was replaced by Peter Horachek, but the Panthers went just 26-36-4 under the interim coach.

Days after the Canadiens were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, Gallant surfaced as a candidate. Montreal granted Florida permission to speak with its assistant June 2.

The immediate pursuit made sense for the Panthers. Gallant is regarded as having strong motivational skills and the ability to work with younger players.

During Gallant’s two seasons in Montreal, he helped in the development of Alexander Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher — a fifth-rounder who finished second to Huberdeau in Calder Trophy voting in 2013.

Prior to coaching, the Summerside, Prince Edward Island, native spent 11 seasons in the NHL, posting 211 goals and 269 assists in 615 career games with the Detroit Red Wings and Tampa Bay Lightning.

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