With the recent announcement of the Vegas Golden Knights and the Chicago Wolves agreeing to a primary association, the St. Louis Blues are currently the only team without a primarily affiliated AHL team. With many stakeholders associated in this new partnership, let’s take a look at who wins and loses with this news.
Chicago Wolves – First off will be the Chicago Wolves themselves. Because of roster rules of the NHL (no more than a 23-man roster) at least 7 players taken in the expansion draft will not make the roster cut and be traded for good prospects or join the Wolves for the start of the 17/18 season. These players along with the top talent of the St. Louis Blues prospect list, whom one would expect to be kept together, should produce a very strong line-up for a run at the 2018 Calder Cup. They should also have a very strong goaltending team with the third string goalies of both the Golden Knights and Blues battling for the starting position.
Las Vegas Golden Knights – The Golden Knights have many reasons to be very pleased with this partnership including having a partner who has been there done that before with switching affiliates (Vancouver to St. Louis in 2013) and putting together strong teams. The ability to set the tone when it comes to the development and ice time of their players. A chance to sign a few of the independent AHL players (Brett Sterling and Bryce Gervais) currently on the Wolves roster this year. The pressure of having to fill an entire AHL roster with players is removed from Las Vegas thanks to St. Louis assigning some of their players to the team. Building a strong core of teammates will be easier with a sole affiliate vs. having to assign players to any team(s) that will take them.
Golden Knight Players – The players drafted/signed by Las Vegas will get to live/play in a big-time hockey town with a strong fan base. The Chicago wolves do a good job of filling their arena, finishing 7th in average attendance with 8,000 fans attending the games. They will be coached by Craig Berube who is well respected in the AHL and has spent 2 years as the Flyers coach during the 13/14 and 14/15 seasons.
Chicago Wolves Fans – With the Golden Knights excitement in their inaugural season in Las Vegas, I would expect a similar level of excitement and focus on the fans to be great this season. I would hope to see contests sending Wolves fans to Vegas for games, doing community events with a Wolves/Golden Knights focus.
St. Louis Blues – Without a primary AHL affiliate, the Blues have lost their ability to drive decisions on player development. They also will have to send players to a few different teams for the 17/18 season and won’t know for sure how many players they will be able to assign to Chicago until late this summer. They also will need to work hard over the coming months to help expand the AHL to 31 teams in order to reobtain a primary AHL affiliate.
St. Louis Blues Players – The Blues players who have built relationships on the Wolves roster won’t know who will be playing when and where until much closer to fall, which will be a hard pill to swallow. The Blues goaltending trio who split time evenly during the 16/17 season will be battling for a chance to be the backup goalie for the 17/18 season.