Since the Lake Erie Monsters entered the American Hockey League in the fall of 2007, they have been tied at the hip to the Colorado Avalanche. Rumors have persisted for months that the Avs, like many NHL clubs, were looking to have an affiliate closer to home. Since the Avalanche do not own the Monsters, the likely scenario would be to purchase another AHL franchise and move the club. That may still happen in the future, but for now, Colorado has opted for a different arrangement.
News broke on Thursday evening that the Lake Erie Monsters would begin a new affiliation with the Columbus Blue Jackets starting this fall. The arrangement makes sense from both a financial and logistical stand point. It's not uncommon for AHL affiliations to change like musical chairs and these recent movements do not dispel that notion.
The Arizona Coyotes announced a new affiliation on Thursday with the Springfield Falcons. Springfield had previously been the AHL feeder team for Columbus. Arizona had previously partnered with the Portland Pirates, who will now begin a new journey with the Florida Panthers.
That left the San Antonio Rampage, who had been affiliated with the Florida Panthers for the past few seasons, without a dance partner. That is, until today...
The Colorado Avalanche, as is well known by now, has announced a five-year affiliation agreement with the San Antonio Rampage. Beginning this fall, several Avalanche prospects will be crafting their games in the Alamo City.
Dean Chynoweth, who is currently coaching the Lake Erie Monsters, will coach the Rampage next season (barring an off-season change). Craig Billington, the Avs assistant general manager, will be in charge of personnel for the Rampage.
Players contracted to the Avalanche will move from Cleveland to San Antonio next season. Minor league contracts are typically for one year. Stalwarts such as Joey HIshon, Sami Aittokallio, Calvin PIckard, Stefan Elliott, and Andrew Agozzino are all restricted free-agents come July 1st.
Patrick Roy has stated on many occasions on his weekly radio program the importance of success at both the NHL and minor league level. The Lake Erie Monsters only made the playoffs one season while affiliated with the Avalanche. The organization will strive to have the Rampage be more successful. That will start with the draft and will hopefully trickle throughout the organization.
For next season, the Rampage roster will have some familiar and new faces. The Avs will likely retain many of their RFAs, though the goaltending quagmire will be of interest this offseason. As can be seen from the list below, the Rampage will have plenty of defensive depth.
The ride with the Lake Erie Monsters has been a roller-coaster. Certainly the Avalanche could have done more for the great fans in Cleveland. Here's hoping their new pact with the Columbus Blue Jackets proves to be fruitful and that the Avalanche can obtain that much needed success with their new partner.