UPDATE: The Checkers have released the following statement about the situation:
“While we are aware that the Carolina Hurricanes are nearing an affiliation agreement with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, the Hurricanes have had little dialogue with us regarding this matter.
“In an era when NHL teams are placing great value on affiliations with closer proximity between the two clubs, we understand the confusion that such a move would cause.
“We will explore other options for our affiliation and look forward to continuing in the American Hockey League when play resumes.”
A rumor that the Hurricanes plan to cut ties with the Charlotte Checkers as their AHL affiliate will likely come to fruition next week, Luke DeCock of the News & Observer reported Wednesday.
According to DeCock’s report, the Hurricanes would get more in affiliation fees from the Wolves than the Checkers. This reported move comes after the Canes and Checkers signed a one-year extension of their affiliation agreement in the middle of training camp, and the Vegas Golden Knights bought the San Antonio franchise in February, opening Chicago up for a new affiliation. Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest first reported the possibility of the Hurricanes moving their affiliation to the Wolves at that time.
The AHL has a conference call scheduled for May 8. The Hurricanes’ affiliation switch is expected to become official once that season is cancelled.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the N&O’s report is that the Canes would have an out clause after every season of their agreement with the Wolves, with a return to Charlotte a possibility.
“Nothing’s done yet, but certainly we’re looking at all of our options,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell told the N&O. “Chicago is certainly one of them. “We’re going to keep all of our options open, take each year at a time and see how things play out.”
The Canes will keep control of their staff in Chicago, and Waddell told the News & Observer Ryan Warsofsky would remain the team’s head coach next year.
The Canes will be the Wolves’ fourth affiliate since 2011. The Florida Panthers would be the only team left without an AHL affiliate currently, and would probably align with the Checkers.
A puzzling move
This is a strange move for a number of seasons. It comes on the heels of the Canes losing Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci to the same job in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization after last year’s run to the Calder Cup championship, though Vellucci was later named Wilkes-Barre Scranton’s general manager as well.
The convenience factor of having the team’s AHL affiliate in the same state is hard to beat, with Charlotte just a three-hour drive, and a flight of less than an hour, away from Raleigh for call-up purposes. That will be lost with the move to Chicago, along with the connection between the fan bases of the Canes’ prospects playing a short drive away.
It’ll be interesting to see if this move was purely motivated by the larger affiliation fee, or if more went on behind the scenes, along with whether or not this is a short term move with the Canes re-upping with Charlotte down the road.
What do you think?
Is going to Chicago the right move, or should the Canes strike a deal to keep their affiliation in Charlotte?
Should the Hurricanes keep their AHL affiliate in Charlotte?
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