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New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres Among NHL Teams With New ECHL Affiliates

New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres Among NHL Teams With New ECHL Affiliates

The New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks are among NHL teams with new ECHL affiliates this season.

Sep 5, 2023 by Chris Peters
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The ECHL has had a long history of sending players to the NHL. Affiliations with NHL and their corresponding AHL teams are a critical piece to roster building across the ECHL. Strong partnerships with parent clubs can lead to tremendous success on the ice and off.

With 28 ECHL members at the moment – soon to be 29 when Lake Tahoe’s expansion franchise hits the ice in 2024-25 – there aren’t enough ECHL clubs to go around for the 32 NHL franchises. Some teams reach secondary agreements to loan players to certain ECHL teams without a direct affiliation, however.

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This summer, a number of ECHL member clubs will be working with new NHL organizations. Affiliation agreements can vary in length and terms, but it is not uncommon for ECHL clubs to work with a number of different franchises over the years.

Here’s a quick look at all of the ECHL teams that will have new NHL parent clubs in 2023-24.

Atlanta Gladiators 

After spending last season affiliated with the Arizona Coyotes, the Gladiators will be affiliated with the Nashville Predators organization, which includes the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals.

“With Nashville just a short drive from the Atlanta area, this partnership will help both franchises continue to expand their presence in the southern professional hockey landscape, and we’re looking forward to seeing our two passionate fanbases cheer each other on,” said Predators assistant GM Brian Poile when the affiliation agreement was announced.

The Predators did not have an ECHL affiliate last season.

Cincinnati Cyclones

The Cincinnati Cyclones spent the previous six season as the ECHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres, but have entered into a new affiliation with the New York Rangers and their AHL club, the Hartford Wolf Pack.

"We're elated and honored to be entering an affiliation with the New York Rangers," said Cyclones team president Ray Harris in a statement announcing the new partnership. "The Rangers bring with them a deep tradition of excellence on and off the ice. Our teams are united and share the common goal of developing players within a winning culture. We know this is the right move for our organization to help return a championship back to Cincinnati." 

The Rangers were previously affiliated with the Jacksonville Icemen.

Jacksonville Icemen

It wasn’t a straight trade by design, but basically the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres swapped ECHL affiliates this summer. Buffalo announced in July that they, along with the Rochester Americans of the AHL, were entering into an affiliation with the Jacksonville Icemen after six seasons with Cincinnati.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Jacksonville Icemen as our new ECHL affiliate,” said Sabres GM Kevyn Adams in a statement. “This partnership marks an exciting new chapter for both organizations and further emphasizes our commitment to the growth and development of our players and staff. The Icemen’s dedication to excellence both on and off the ice, coupled with competitive conference play, made them a great fit for our new affiliate.”

“Our goal is to continue to improve and bring the Kelly Cup to the best fans in the league while also continuing our commitment to develop players.  We are confident that this partnership with Buffalo and Rochester will add talent to the Icemen that can move us forward," said Icemen head coach Nik Luukko.

Kalamazoo Wings

In what has been a little bit of an on-again, off-again relationship that has spanned multiple leagues dating back to 1984, Kalamazoo has reunited with the Vancouver Canucks for the fourth time in their franchise’s history. 

“Securing a full-time ECHL affiliation is something we have wanted to do for our players and the Abbotsford Canucks,” said Canucks GM Patrik Allvin in a statement. “Giving our guys every opportunity to grow, improve and succeed on the ice is extremely important to the hockey club. Having this agreement with Kalamazoo gives our team, and our development staff, another touchpoint in the long hard journey to becoming a pro hockey player.”

Kalamazoo has had many different affiliates over a long and storied history that spans 49 seasons. Most recently, they spent the last two seasons as the ECHL partner of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The K-Wings had previously been tied to the Canucks from 1984-88, 2011-15, and 2017-21.

Norfolk Admirals

The Admirals will be one of the teams in the ECHL that have a formal NHL affiliate, but will also have a working agreement with another NHL club. 

Norfolk announced just last week that they will be the ECHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets and their AHL club, the Manitoba Moose. However, the Ads will also remain in a working relationship with last year’s formal affiliate, the Carolina Hurricanes. 

Carolina is in the unique position of being without an AHL affiliate for the 2023-24 season after their partnership with the Chicago Wolves ended following last season. 

In the Hurricanes’ announcement of the partnership with Norfolk, the club clarified that this should not be viewed as a direct substitute for not having an AHL partner but does give them a place to send players for further development.

Winnipeg, meanwhile, did not have an official ECHL affiliate last season.

"We are excited to begin our partnership with the Norfolk Admirals,” said Craig Heisinger, Assistant GM of the Winnipeg Jets said in a statement. “The city of Norfolk and the Admirals franchise have a rich hockey history and we look forward to the opportunity that this affiliation will provide for our prospects.”