When Hurricanes executives Jim Rutherford and Jason Karmanos joined Charlotte Checkers owner Michael Kahn to announce that the Canes AHL affiliate was coming to the state, the news came with cheers from most hockey fans in North Carolina. Not cheering? The people of Albany, N.Y., who were losing not only the players they had grown accustomed to courtesy the relationship with the Hurricanes, but also their AHL franchise. But according to a report Tuesday from the Albany Times Union, the city could land a replacement for the River Rats by the first week in March. Bob Belber, the general manager of the Times Union Center, told the TImes Union that the arena has been in talks with a current AHL team — reportedly the Portland (Maine) Pirates — and that a deal could be in place by the first week in March, if all the details can be ironed out. One minor but noteworthy item still on the table: whether or not the River Rats name would live on. The Pirates are the affiliate for the Sabres, and given the proximity of Albany to Buffalo — about four and a half hours, weather permitting — the teams would benefit from a similar relationship that the Hurricanes and Checkers will have next season.