When the expansion Vegas Golden Knights begin their inaugural NHL season in the fall, the Wolves will be developing talent for the franchise. The teams Tuesday announced what sources indicate is a five-year affiliation deal.
The Wolves’ season ended last week with a 4-1 series loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the American Hockey League’s Central Division finals. The Wolves were the St. Louis Blues’ AHL affiliate for the last four seasons.
Golden Knights officials, including general manager George McPhee, have made it clear that the expectation is for the Wolves to prepare players for the parent club and to win at the AHL level. The Wolves have won four league championships in their history, the most recent in 2008.
‘‘[McPhee] has always been a general manager who believes that winning is an important part of developing players,’’ Wolves owner Don Levin said in a statement released by the team. ‘‘Professional playoffs are different than the regular season, and he understands that and he wants his players to be ready to win.’’
During the time McPhee served as GM of the Washington Capitals and the Hershey Bears were their affiliate (2005-14), Hershey won three Calder Cup championships.
‘‘American Hockey League affiliates play a significant role in the success of all NHL clubs, and we are proud to have the Chicago Wolves as our first in team history,’’ McPhee said.
‘‘Chicago is without question one of the strongest, most passionate hockey communities in North America. This is a relationship that we truly believe will be mutually beneficial.’’
No announcement has been made about who will coach the Wolves next season. Craig Berube just completed his first season with the team and helped guide it back to the playoffs. The Wolves finished the regular season with 101 points, the most they had accumulated in the last seven seasons.
According to reports, Berube interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Golden Knights before they hired former Columbus Blue Jackets and Florida Panthers coach Gerald Gallant.
The Golden Knights have only two players under contract: rookie forward Reid Duke, who spent the last five weeks of this season practicing with the Wolves, and Russian center Vadim Shipachyov. Their roster will grow next month through the expansion draft and the entry draft.
‘‘We’re starting from the ground up with a new franchise,’’ Wolves GM Wendell Young said in the statement. ‘‘It will be exciting to build both franchises together with the same philosophy.’’
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