Keenan resigns as Panthers general manager

Updated: September 6, 2006, 4:53 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

MIAMI -- Mike Keenan spent the offseason assembling a roster that he believes could vault the Florida Panthers into playoff contention for the first time since 2000.

He won't be around to see if his moves were good enough.

Keenan resigned Sunday as the Panthers' general manager, stepping down after a little more than two years running the team's day-to-day operations. Panthers coach Jacques Martin, who came to the club with Keenan in May 2004, assumes the GM duties.

Martin's assumption of both coaching and GM duties is a "permanent" move, and the team is not looking for a new GM or a new coach, team executive Michael Yormark told the Miami Herald.

"I feel well-prepared for this challenge," Martin said. "I've been close friends with Mike for a lot of years and we've worked together for a long time. And this club is in a much better position now than when we came here two years ago."

Keenan -- who led the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup as coach in 1994 and has coached six other NHL teams, including the Panthers -- was not made available for comment. There was no word on whether Keenan would be paid the remaining money left on his contract.

Martin said he learned the move was looming late last week, when team owner Alan Cohen told him that Keenan was resigning and asked if he'd be comfortable adding the GM chores.

"I told him that I could fulfill both jobs," Martin said. "I'm excited. Part of it is because of the quality people we have in the organization. When you have good people working around you, it becomes a great opportunity."

The Panthers first hired Keenan as coach in December 2001, then fired him 23 months later after Florida won only 45 of 153 games played with him behind the bench. Keenan returned to the organization in May 2004, part of a two-pronged move that also brought Martin in as coach.

Keenan made some stirring moves in the past year, in which the Panthers -- who haven't won a playoff series since making the Stanley Cup finals in 1996 -- failed to reach the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

Most notably, Keenan opted to trade All-Star goaltender Roberto Luongo to the Vancouver Canucks in June, a move that stunned Luongo -- who thought he was on the cusp of agreeing to a long-term deal with the club.

Instead, Keenan made the swap to acquire forward Todd Bertuzzi, defenseman Bryan Allen and goalie Alex Auld from the Canucks, and insisted afterward that it was the best direction for the franchise.

"Mike has done a tremendous job over the past two years in positioning this franchise for immediate and future success. ... He has assembled the most talented team in our franchise's history," Cohen said.

Martin agreed with that assessment, and credited Keenan for the job he did in Florida.

"I think Mike did a tremendous job," Martin said. "All our players are signed for this coming season and we signed some free agents that we think will help our hockey club. I don't think it's going to be a distraction. We're very excited about our hockey club and the coming season."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.