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Chicago Wolves, Golden Knights And The AHL FAQ

Rather than try to write an article that answers all the questions about the Golden Knights, Chicago Wolves, and their affiliation, I figured we should take out a step. Let’s just ask the questions, and then I’ll answer them. It’s the AHL FAQ, who knows maybe it’ll become a thing.

What is the AHL?

The American Hockey League is the premier minor league for the NHL.

Throughout the season, AHL players will be promoted (“recalled”) to the partner NHL club for a number of reasons. If an NHL player is injured, the team may recall a player from the AHL to temporarily take his place. They can then be sent back down to the minors (“assigned”) for a variety of reasons as well, including when an injured NHL player returns to full health. Every NHL team has its own affiliate in the AHL, from where more than 88 percent of active NHL players are graduates. -Golden Knights Press Release

Who are the Chicago Wolves?  

An AHL team that was previously part of the now folded International Hockey League (IHL). The Wolves were founded in 1994 and joined the AHL in 2001. They’ve won multiple Calder Cups (the AHL’s championship), but it’s the minor leagues, so who really cares.

What is the agreement between the Wolves and Golden Knights?

The Wolves will become the official primary AHL affiliate for the Golden Knights. The Golden Knights will be able to send players to the Chicago Wolves at any point during the NHL/AHL season and will also be able to recall them to the NHL at any point.

Who controls hockey decisions?

Under the current deal the Golden Knights will manage all aspects involving hockey     operations, such as personnel decisions, ice-time, and the hiring and firing of coaches.

Is this how the AHL usually works?

Normally, yes, but in the history of the Chicago Wolves, no. Their owner, Don Levin has always preferred to have control over hockey operations to ensure his organization had the best chance to win. Historically, that’s caused friction with the affiliating NHL club because their focus is usually on development rather than winning. Levin says his trust in George McPhee is why he was willing to relinquish all hockey decision making to the Golden Knights.

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Chicago Wolves Announced As Golden Knights AHL Affiliate

Brace yourself SinBinners, what we’ve been reporting since January is now official and it’s time for the local and national media types to report it like it’s breaking news. The Golden Knights will have the Chicago Wolves as their AHL affiliate for the 2017-18 season.

American Hockey League affiliates play a significant role in the success of all NHL clubs and are we are proud to have the Chicago Wolves as our first in team history. I would like to thank Don Levin, Wendell Young and the rest of the Wolves organization for their commitment to the game and helping young hockey players grow to reach their full potential as professionals. Chicago is without question one of the strongest, most passionate hockey communities in North America. This is a relationship that we truly believe will be mutually beneficial. -George McPhee in Press Release

McPhee has said he expects between six and eight players under Golden Knights control to be playing at the AHL level at any given point. Chicago’s central location in the country and two airports allow the team to quickly and easily get players from the AHL to the NHL, the primary concern for the Golden Knights next season.

In a conference call with season ticket holders in March McPhee detailed the type of relationship Vegas will have with the Wolves.

The deal that we are going to do is going to be an exclusive deal, we are the primary affiliate, and we are going to go into a market that has a good hockey history and the team has done well. We will supply our players, we may get some players from another club but the way that the deal would be structured is the affiliation is between us and the minor league club and we will decide what players come from the other clubs, if any. We have full authority in all hockey matters and we will have final say on what decisions that are made. -McPhee

There are no details on the exact length of the contract, other than being described as “multi-year,” but rest assured, Vegas is in the market to move their affiliate closer to home as soon as possible. 

Vegas To Control All Hockey Operation At AHL Level; Likely Affiliated With Chicago Wolves

Remember about a month ago when we were discussing the Chicago Wolves organization and how they may not be the perfect fit for the Golden Knights? Well after a little further digging, it appears the information that led us to that conclusion is a bit out-dated, and the concerns we had aren’t going to be an issue at all.

Vegas will have full control over hockey operations of it’s minor league affiliate. They will be the primary NHL team to be affiliated with their minor league team, and the Chicago Wolves are still the likely destination which will be announced when the AHL season concludes in late April to mid May (depending on the Wolves success in the playoffs).

Let me back up a minute and show my work here, cause this is quite a bit different from what I said a little more than a month ago.

The first report of an affiliation with the Wolves was posted by Steve Carp of the RJ on January 1st. At that time it was reported as “in discussions” with Chicago.

Since then, sources have assured with me on multiple occasions that unless something changes, it’ll be Chicago. I even got a pretty strong hint of that yesterday as well.

So that’s when I went into dig mode on what an affiliation with the Wolves would look like. Historically, the Wolves are one of the most independently run AHL franchises even making comments like this.

They are in no way defined by their NHL parent. Affiliation, for (Wolves GM Wendell Young), is just another league rule. –Danny Ecker, Crain’s Chicago Business

That quote was from 2013, but Ecker doubled down on that in an article written in June 2016 about the Blues extending their affiliation with the Wolves.

Then yesterday, in a special Q&A with season ticket holders, George McPhee was asked about the minor league affiliation and exactly how that will process will work.

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AHL Has No Expansion Applications; Vegas To Share With St. Louis?

Since the moment the Vegas Golden Knights became a reality there has really only been one name truly linked to them in regards to the AHL. That’s the Chicago Wolves, the current affiliate with the St. Louis Blues.

Why it made so much sense was because there appear to be plans in the works for the Blues to pick up and move their AHL affiliation to Kansas City. We discussed that in depth here. But here’s the problem, the AHL’s President and CEO David Andrews says they have yet to receive an application for expansion.

I don’t think we can go much beyond the middle of March without having a commitment with respect to where each of these NHL clubs are going to [have their affiliate] play and whether we are ready to expand. -David Andrews

Stephen Gross, a reporter from The Morning Call (it’s a newspaper in Allentown, Pennsylvania, I had to look it up so I figured I’d save you the time. Don’t worry, they’ve never heard of SinBin.vegas either, so the confusion is mutual) said Andrews put the odds at 50-50 that the league will indeed expand in time for next season.

So where does that leave Vegas in all of this?

It means there’s a 50-50 shot the Golden Knights and Blues will share an affiliate in the Chicago Wolves. GM George McPhee says Vegas will only have “six or eight guys” in the AHL, but the situation in Chicago gets tricky with the Blues still in the picture.

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Current GM’s Want Expansion Rules, NHL Tasks Former GM With The Job

We first brought this idea to you about three weeks ago when Brian Blessing suggested it on the podcast, but now, national hockey media has caught up.

The argument for general managers is quite simple. If we are to make the best decisions for our franchise moving forward, we need to know the rules of a potential expansion draft so we can prepare. We used common sense to come up with this, but it appears hockey reporters are now are hearing it directly from the source.

We’re excited to find out the rules if there is expansion. It’s certainly nice to get those rules so you can make your business decisions short- and long-term based on making players available — if there is expansion. – Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues GM 

There have also been multiple reports from guys like Pierre LeBrun, USA Today’s Kevin Allen, and plenty of local reporters regurgitating the info as well.

This isn’t the important news for Las Vegas though. Obviously general managers want the information for preparation purposes, but these guys prepare for everything, so there’s no reason to really read into their requests as confirmation expansion is happening.

However, this little nugget may just be something to get excited about.

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Mock Expansion Draft – Protected Players – St. Louis Blues

The first step to our mock draft is to establish the list of players that will be available for the Las Vegas franchise to draft. To do this, we decided to have a blogger from each team represent their own franchise and select the players that will be protected from the Mock Expansion Draft available player pool. To see the rules which were followed to protect players, hit this link.

Next up, we have the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are being represented by David Rogers from FrozenNotes.com.

Protected Players

Analysis from FrozenNotes.com:

The Blues are a difficult team for this experiment. They have seemingly a perfect balance of talented youth and experienced veterans. I could have been given three additional selections and I would’ve still had trouble narrowing things down.

Ultimately, I tried a mix of players. The young stars (Fabbri, Edmundson, Parayko) with big upside and the established names (Tarasenko, Stastny, etc.).

As with any team, there were names I wish I wouldn’t have left out. Jordan Binnington for example was a painful cut.

I could have left out some of the older names (Backes, Steen, Bouwmeester), but the Blues would then be hard pressed as their lineup might be too young to compete in the playoffs.

The entire list of unprotected players that will be available for Team Lane and Team Pothier to select from can be found here.

To see more team explanations just like this one, check out The Sin Bin Mock Expansion Draft Landing Page.

Special thanks again to David Rogers from FrozenNotes.com. Be sure to follow @FrozenNotes on Twitter, and heck, throw us (@SinBinVegas) a follow too while you’re at it.

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