The St. Louis Blues are expected to strike an affiliation agreement with the San Antonio Rampage starting with the 2018-19 season, providing St. Louis an exclusive AHL affiliate.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting on the details of a deal that is expected to be announced soon. Should this arrangement come to fruition, the Blues and Rampage would secure a five-year affiliation agreement that begins with the 2018-19 season.
For the upcoming 2017-18 season, the Blues will not have an exclusive affiliate in the AHL, though the club will supply some players to its former main affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. The Wolves are now the primary affiliate of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
There are broader implications to a potential St. Louis/San Antonio pairing. The AHL has already confirmed that it plans to add an expansion team for the 2018-19 season, a move that will give it 31 clubs, the same number as the NHL. San Antonio is currently affiliated with the Colorado Avalanche, but reports have indicated that the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles are looking to join the AHL and become the Avalanche’s new affiliate in that league.
Therefore, the arrival of a Blues’ affiliation in San Antonio would free up the Avalanche to align with the Eagles if the latter joins the AHL. However, neither the Blue nor AHL officials are confirming that new arrangement. More from The Post-Dispatch:
The Blues would not confirm the new arrangement, nor would AHL President David Andrews, who in an interview with the Post-Dispatch this week only addressed the development in general terms.
“I don’t really want to comment on the San Antonio side,” Andrews said. “If and when they’re ready to make that announcement, I would leave it to them. … But where (the Blues) are going to land is probably the best situation they could hope for as an affiliated team with an AHL owned-and-operated franchise. There is no better location in terms of a partnership and the strength of that organization. They are, if not the best operators in professional sports, they’re darn close. I would feel very comfortable if I were a Blues fan or anyone interested in the Blues that they won’t be suffering at all with the situation that they’re in for developing players going forward, including this year. They’re going to have a full-time home and it’ll be a good one.”
San Antonio has been in operation since 2002 and SS&E became sole owner of the team in 2005. Today, the Texas-based group runs five sports franchises, including the five-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. The Rampage play at the AT&T Center, home of the Spurs.
The Post-Dispatch also reports that the affiliation would give the Blues control of the hockey operations department. The AHL confirmed in July that it will expand next season, but it is slated to play at 30 clubs for 2017-18.