St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs Among Teams With New ECHL Affiliates

St. Louis Blues, Toronto Maple Leafs Among Teams With New ECHL Affiliates

The Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues are among NHL teams that have switched or added new ECHL affiliations this summer.

Jul 10, 2024 by Chris Peters

It’s as sure a sign of summer when NHL teams are playing some musical chairs with their ECHL affiliates. A number of high profile NHL clubs are making switches for their Premier ‘AA’ affiliates this offseason including the Stanley Cup champion Florida Panthers, a pair of Original Six franchises and the St. Louis Blues are getting back in the ECHL mix on a more official basis for the first time in a while.

The ECHL will have 29 teams this season, just three short of the 32 to match the AHL and NHL franchise totals. NHL teams that do not have full-time ECHL affiliates next season include the Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets and Utah Hockey Club. Clubs without an affiliate can still loan their prospects to other ECHL teams, and often do so when necessary.

It can be hard to keep up with the movement times, but your pals at FloHockey -- the exclusive global streaming home for the ECHL -- are here to make sure you’re in the know about where your favorite NHL team’s affiliates will be playing if they’re sent to the ECHL during the 2024-25 season.

Toronto Maple Leafs Link Up With Cincinnati Cyclones

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the more aggressive teams when it comes to loaning prospects to the ECHL. Since 2018, the Newfoundland Growlers had been Toronto’s ECHL partner and a beneficiary of a number of NHL-contracted prospects being loaned out, however the Growlers franchise ceased operations before the end of last season due to ownership issues. 

Toronto was able to reach an agreement with the Central Division’s Cincinnati Cyclones, which will be Cincy’s third affiliate in as many years after being with the Buffalo Sabres in 2022-23, then the New York Rangers last season and now Toronto for 2024-25. The Maple Leafs and AHL’s Toronto Marlies will be tied to the Cyclones for at least next season. 

There are a few other loose connections between the Maple Leafs and Cyclones beyond their new affiliation, as Justin Vaive has been the captain of Cincinnati for the last few seasons. He is the son of former Maple Leafs star Rick Vaive, who was the first to score 50 goals for the Maple Leafs.

The Cincinnati Cyclones are coached by Jason Payne, who is a Toronto native.

St. Louis Blues Sign On With Kelly Cup Champs

It has been a few years since the St. Louis Blues had a full ECHL affiliate and they’re getting back in the ‘AA’ business with one of the best going. The Florida Everblades, currently on an unprecedented streak of three consecutive Kelly Cup championships, announced the Blues as their new NHL parent club in a multi-year agreement that includes their AHL partners Springfield Thunderbirds.

The Everblades had spent the last few seasons with the Florida Panthers, who just won the Stanley Cup. 

St. Louis had not had a full-time ECHL affiliate in recent years, but had sent a number of contracted prospects to the Orlando Solar Bears whose full-time affiliate is the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

By linking up with the Everblades, the Blues are tied to the ECHL’s most successful franchise both in recent memory and historically. The three consecutive Kelly Cups was a first in league history, while Florida’s four total Kelly Cup titles are most all-time in the league’s history. The Everblades have also had a lot of success getting players promoted to the highest levels with 40 former ‘blades seeing time in the NHL over the club’s previous 26 seasons of operation.

Stanley Cup Champs Tap Savannah For ECHL Partnership

Coming right off the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title, the Florida Panthers are going out of state for their ECHL affiliation, but a little bit closer to their AHL affiliate. The Panthers, whose top farm club is the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, have reached an affiliate agreement in the ECHL with the Savannah Ghost Pirates, which entered the league ahead of the 2022-23 season.

The Ghost Pirates were previously affiliated with the Vegas Golden Knights for their first two seasons in the ECHL.

New York Rangers Run With Expansion Bison

The New York Rangers have rotated their ECHL affiliates over each of the last three seasons, having spent time affiliated with the Jacksonville Icemen and most recently with the Cincinnati Cyclones. For the 2024-25 campaign, New York will be partnered with the expansion Bloomington Bison, which open play next fall in Central Illinois.

The Blueshirts and Bison announced the affiliation agreement in late May. Bloomington will be playing in the tough Central Division which features the Rangers’ most recent affiliate in the Cincy Cyclones, but also ECHL affiliates of the Detroit Red Wings (Toledo Walleye), Edmonton Oilers (Fort Wayne Komets), Minnesota Wild (Iowa Heartlanders), Vancouver Canucks (Kalamazoo Wings) and Chicago Blackhawks (Indy Fuel).

There is only one ECHL team that has not yet announced its affiliation agreement, though that is expected to come next week. The Tahoe Knight Monsters are expected to announce an affiliation agreement with the Vegas Golden Knights as Sin City’s NHL club will have a consolidated development system all within Nevada state lines including AHL affiliate Henderson Silver Knights and the fledgling Knight Monsters.

The Knight Monsters will be playing in the ECHL’s Mountain Division starting this fall and count Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow among its majority owners.

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