According to Steve Carp at the RJ, the Vegas Golden Knights are in discussions to lock in the Chicago Wolves as their AHL affiliate.
The Wolves are currently affiliated with the St. Louis Blues, but their deal with the NHL club expiries at the end of this season. The Creator offered a quick “no comment” to the RJ and the Chicago Wolves released this statement.
We have no comment on that rumor. We are affiliated with St. Louis and happy. -Lindsey Willhite, Chicago Wolves spokesman
Not that happy though, as St. Louis has been consistently linked to a project in Kansas City headed up by Lamar Hunt Jr., son of the NFL’s Chiefs founder, Lamar Hunt. There have also been disagreements between the Wolves organization and the Blues over coaching decisions and the handing of a few Blues owned players. Since the Wolves are privately owned, they have the final say, not the NHL parent club.
Sources tell NHL.com’s Lou Korac that the move to KC is “a done deal,” however that report was denied the day after it was reported.
All in all, Chicago makes quite a bit of sense to be the short-term answer for the Golden Knights. The organization fits all the criteria we’ve heard from The Creator, Murray Craven, and George McPhee to this point. It’s not owned by an NHL franchise, it’s an existing AHL team, and it does offer relatively easy access from AHL to NHL for players via direct flights from Chicago to Las Vegas.
With Vegas only expecting to send 6-8 players to the AHL in its inaugural year, the Wolves would fill up the rest of the roster with non-NHL contracted players of their own.
The Chicago Wolves are historically one of the most successful AHL franchises, and one of the very few that televise most of their games. They also have a strong fan base and consistently rank in the top third in the league in attendance.
In the short term, Chicago is a perfect fit for the Golden Knights. But the lack of player control will become an issue down the road as Vegas goes from finding its footing to starting to really compete in the Western Conference. Also, Chicago, being home to one of the NHL’s most popular franchises, does not offer any added fan support to the Golden Knights like many other non-NHL cities could.
But beggars can’t be choosers, and from the looks of it, there’s not a better option out there right now than Chicago. But if the Golden Knights are serious about growing their fan base, and more importantly, if they are serious about winning, the connection with the Wolves must be temporary.