Jacques Martin left Arizona Friday night knowing the Coyotes wanted him to be their next coach.
But less than 48 hours later, Martin accepted the Florida Panthers’ coaching job, two sources told the Tribune. The move will be formally announced Wednesday at a news conference in Miami, Fla.
The Panthers fired general manager Rick Dudley on Monday. Sources say Mike Keenan — who was fired as coach early last season but is still under contract with Florida — will be installed as the new GM when Martin becomes coach.
Coyotes GM Mike Barnett never publicly said Martin, the former coach of the Ottawa Senators, was a candidate. He had no comment on the news of Martin's hiring or what it means to the Coyotes' search, other than to say, "Our interview process is continuing.''
Interim coach Rick Bowness is the only candidate that Barnett has acknowledged to this point.
“This isn't a race,'' Barnett said. “We're moving at a pace that is comfortable for us.''
Dudley knows Coyotes senior executive Cliff Fletcher well — the two worked side-by-side building the core of what is now the Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Dudley joins a list of potential candidates that includes former Carolina Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice and Marc Habschied, coach of the Memorial Cup champion Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League.
Sources indicate former St. Louis Blues coach Joel Quenneville is not a candidate.
Barnett left Tuesday for the NHL pre-draft “combine'' camp in Toronto. A team source said Barnett has already had preliminary conversations with “two or three'' other candidates.
Meanwhile, former Coyotes coach Bob Francis met with Ottawa GM John Muckler late last week and said he was “very impressed and encouraged.'' Francis is also a candidate in New York for the Rangers' job and could meet with GM Glen Sather as soon as this week.