Reports surfaced last week indicated that the Devils were planning a move to Binghamton. The shift was pending approval from the AHL board of governors, which was set to meet this past weekend in conjunction with the league’s All-Star Game festivities.
Ultimately, the board followed through on the proposal, unanimously allowing the New Jersey Devils to move their farm team from the Times Union Center to Binghamton’s Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. Their agreement runs through the 2021-22 season.
“After evaluating multiple scenarios and obtaining the approval of the AHL Board of Governors, we have agreed to partner with a local operating group in Binghamton, NY to relocate the franchise for the 2017-18 season,” said Hugh Weber, president of the New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center said in a statement. “The new arrangement will allow the organization to focus its efforts on developing our player prospects, while leaving the business operations to those with expertise in the market.”
Setting this into motion was a decision that was made by the AHL last fall, when the board of governors approved the relocation of the Binghamton Senators to Belleville, ON. That move was made by the Ottawa Senators, as the NHL franchise sought to bring its affiliate closer to its home base.
All along, however, it seemed that Binghamton was likely to reenter the mix. We noted in July that Binghamton was expressing confidence in the possibility of obtaining a team, and mentioned that the Devils could be a fit in the city. In the aftermath of announcement that the Senators were moving on, Binghamton officials expressed their hope that another team would take their place, making Tuesday’s announcement a welcomed bit of news.
“We’re thrilled to welcome the three-time Stanley Cup Champion, New Jersey Devils, to the Southern Tier starting in the 2017-18 season,” Tom Mitchell, executive vice president of the Binghamton Senators, said in a statement. “In addition, we have a lease arrangement with Broome County to keep the American Hockey League on the ice at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena through the 2021-22 season. We have some extra special benefits and events planned that we’ll be excited to share with fans shortly.”
Overall it has been a busy time for the AHL. Albany, Belleville, and Binghamton are not the only cities to be affected by franchises shifts, as the St. John’s IceCaps are set to move to Laval, QC for next season. In addition, with the NHL set to expand to 31 teams for its 2017-18 season, the AHL may look to do the same, according to league president and CEO David Andrews. More from The Morning Call:
As of Monday, Andrews said there are no expansion applicants but the league is in discussion with a few different markets. He expected more news to come on that within the next four to six weeks.
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,” Andrews said.
He put the odds at a little better than 50-50 that the league will have a 31st team next season. If not, it’s likely there will be a new team the following year.
What Andrews does know is that the league needs to make new divisional and conference alignments again next year, although with moving parts that can’t be finalized yet.
Time will tell which markets emerge as expansion favorites, but clearly the AHL is continuing to plan for some rapid changes.