For the next four years, the Portland Pirates are going to house the prospect of the Florida Panthers– an announcement that was made Wednesday morning. The Pirates will be ending a four-year relationship with the Arizona Coyotes and the Panthers will be the fifth affiliate the Pirates have had since their inception in 1993– the Capitals, Ducks, and Sabres being the other three in that fold.
With five of the Western Conference teams moving their AHL clubs to California, the Panthers made a calculated move to leave San Antonio to move to Portland. With the Panthers being in the Atlantic Division, the rest of their divisional rivals are in the northeast US (sans Tampa Bay) and with this move, it will allow the Panthers to call up their players on the road in a much quicker fashion as they will be much closer to their opponents than San Antonio. Not only that, the prospects won’t lose a hour in travel when it comes to being called up.
Rumors have been around the Coyotes that they were looking to get out of Portland anyway, joining the California teams in moving west, possibly somewhere in Arizona– whether it be Prescott Valley, Tuscon, or even playing in the Gila River Arena with the Coyotes. Yet, Fox Sports Arizona is saying that the Coyotes could be going back to San Antonio in the meantime as other things are being ironed out when it comes to moving to Arizona. Also in that piece, it says that the Colorado Avalanche have an interest in San Antonio, but as reported many times– the Avs have a multi-year agreement in place with the Lake Erie Monsters; so I can assume that’s out.
San Antonio is a solid market, sitting seventh in the AHL in attendance this season; but they’ve only made the playoffs in three of their previous 12 seasons; though they are priming for another playoff appearance this season as they are fourth in the Western Conference. There’s a solid ownership base with Spurs Sports and Entertainment at the helm of it all. With teams clamoring over the market it seems, the Rampage won’t be dormant for long– if at all– going into next season. It’s just a matter whether or not the Coyotes get there or the Avalanche break their contract with Lake Erie and slide in there.