SUNRISE (CBSMiami) – The Florida Panthers are ready to start a new season and will do so under new ownership.

Friday, the Panthers will announce Vincent Viola as the team’s new owner. Viola will pay around $250 million for the Panthers franchise and will replace Cliff Viner, who became a co-general partner of the team in 2009 and took over as general partner, chairman, and CEO the next season.

Viola currently serves as the chairman and CEO of Virtu Financial, an electronic trading firm. Viola is a West Point graduate and was a major in the U.S. Army Reserves. He also served as a chairman of the New York Mercantile Exchange and built a center devoted to combating terrorism.

Viola has to hope his business success will help build a winner in Sunrise. The Panthers have been to the playoffs only once since 2000 and finished with the fewest points in the NHL last season.

Completing the sale will have an immediate effect on the on-ice product, at least in one respect. The move clears the way for the team to complete the signing of two-time Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender who took last season off before deciding that he wanted to return.

Thomas has been with the Panthers on a tryout deal, and it was believed that the team was waiting for the ownership change to be completed before wrapping up his signing.

In other Panthers news, the team announced Thursday that it had hired John Madden as a pro scout. Madden is a 13-year-veteran of the NHL and won three Stanley Cup titles during his career. Madden was most recently on the Montreal Canadiens’ scouting staff.


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