This is something that hasn't been talked about very much, and it is sort of a big deal, so here goes...
Next season, the American Hockey League will expand from 27 teams to 29. Every NHL team has at the very least, a joint affiliation with one or more AHL squads. For the last four seasons, Carolina has split an AHL team with another NHL squad. Now they will be back to having an exclusive affiliation.
For the 2003-04 season and also during the lockout, Carolina split the Lowell Lock Monsters with Calgary. This is how the Canes became familiar with, and how they ultimately courted Mike Commodore.
For the 2005-06 season, Carolina split Lowell with Colorado.
Last season, Carolina split the Albany River Rats with Colorado.
For next season, Colorado will be affiliated with the "expansion" Lake Erie Monsters. They technically aren't an expansion team because they're just the rebirth of the dormant Utah Grizzlies franchise. Now that the Avs are gone, Carolina will have Albany all to themselves. It's always been the case that the AHL team bore the Carolina logo somewhere on their sweater, and Carolina was always the "primary" interest, but now it will be all theirs. No more figuring out if the Rats players are ours or theirs.
The other "new" team will be the Rockford (Illinois) Ice Hogs. They are a rebirth of the dormant Cincinnati Mighty Ducks franchise. They will be the sole property of the Blackhawks.
Annnnnnnd..... there's a game of musical chairs.
Chicago had previously used the Norfolk Admirals as their AHL Affiliate. The Admirals will now be affiliated with the Lightning.
Tampa had previously used the Springfield (Massachusetts) Falcons as their affiliate. The Falcons will now be associated with Edmonton.
Last season, Edmonton had their hands in five different AHL teams. Two seasons ago, they forced the Edmonton Road Runners out of business, and the scrambled to share AHL affiliates for the 06 and 07 seasons.
So far as I can tell, the Panthers will still latch on to the Rochester Americans. who are primarily operated by the Sabres.
And speaking of the River Rats, the Hurricanes have signed 22-year old centerman Jakub Petruzalek to a two-year two-way contract which will pay the Czech $475K at the NHL level or $55K at the AHL level. After being acquired via trade with the Rangers last autumn, Petruzalek amassed 28 (10/18) points in 54 games with Albany. He also added four points (2/2) in five playoff games for the River Rats.
4 years ago