Despite discussion that the Vancouver Canucks could move AHL operations closer to their home base, the Utica Comets expect an extension with the NHL club.
Technically the Comets are owned by the Canucks, but play under management that is led by former AHL, NHL and U.S. Olympic goaltender Robert Esche. That six-season arrangement took effect prior to the 2013-14 season, and the two sides must decide by January whether to extend the agreement.
The pending expiration of the original agreement has raised questions about whether the Canucks will shift AHL operations closer to their home base, following a pattern that many western NHL franchises have set with their AHL squads. Abbotsford, BC, for instance, is often speculated as a potential landing spot–it was previously home to the AHL’s Abbotsford Flames and is located a little more than hour outside of Vancouver.
In a recent interview, however, Esche said that Utica expects to extend its agreement with the Canucks. While a move of AHL operations might be part of Vancouver’s long-term plans, Esche believes that the Canucks are satisfied with the current arrangement in Utica and anticipates that the two sides will reach an extension. More from the Observer-Dispatch:
“In talking with president of the AHL, Dave Andrews, there simply (are not) the options out there that people think,” Esche said.
Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini recently said they are weighing their options. Esche knows it is possible the Canucks could eventually have their affiliate located closer to Vancouver. He said that could be years from now, though.
Esche reiterated Tuesday he’s confident an agreement will be reached on an extension with Vancouver.
“To them, what’s the rush in signing (an extension) right now? They have two months. They can do their due diligence,” Esche said of the January deadline to sign a deal. “I don’t think they’re in hurry to up and leave.”
Recent trends in NHL/AHL affiliations have seen an emphasis on geographic proximity, as evidenced by the success of the AHL’s Pacific Division. That trend could grow down the road, especially if Vancouver eventually follows suit and a potential Seattle NHL expansion franchise looks for a regional affiliate of its own. For now, however, the Canucks have an arrangement in Utica that has had some success–the Comets’ have a sellout streak that sits at 122 games–and the Comets appear confident that that relationship will continue.