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‘Interesting rumor’ on Joel Quenneville makes Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews smile

Joel Quenneville could be back in the NHL soon. | Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Former Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is already popping up as a candidate for some of the NHL’s eight confirmed vacancies, and ESPN reported Sunday that the Panthers have targeted him with a multiyear deal that would make him one of the league’s highest-paid coaches.

Multiple organizations asked the Hawks for permission to interview Quenneville for a coaching vacancy, and general manager Stan Bowman said he has granted those requests. Quenneville is still under contract through the 2019-20 season despite being relieved of his duties.

“I don’t think it’s my place to comment on that,” Bowman said. “I’ll leave that with those teams to address it. We’re not involved with what happens once they have the conversations.”

The Panthers are an intriguing option coming off an 86-point season and are expected be a big player for free agents like Artemi Panarin.

The Hawks dropped Quenneville in November after a 6-6-3 start in favor of Jeremy Colliton. Colliton went 30-28-9, and the team fell six points short of the playoffs.

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Quenneville won three Stanley Cups in Chicago and is second in league history with 890 career wins. Several of his players from the Hawks’ championship runs are still with the team, and it would be an interesting night if they take on their old coach next season.

“I think it’d be funny,” Jonathan Toews said. “We’d definitely crack a smile seeing him on the bench, and I’m sure he would do the same. It’d be pretty cool to see him out there on the ice.

“Interesting rumor. We’ll see what happens.”