Chairman Don Levin hopes the Wolves are about to reunite with an old friend. And it looks like that could happen soon.
The Raleigh News & Observer reported Wednesday that the Carolina Hurricanes and Wolves are expected to join together on a year-to-year basis next season. The report says the deal will become final when the rest of the 2019-20 AHL season is officially canceled, which could come as soon as next week.
“Nothing’s done yet, but certainly we’re looking at all of our options,” Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell told the News & Observer. “Chicago is certainly one of them.”
The Wolves franchise, whose three-year relationship with the Vegas Golden Knights is ending when the season is over, has a history with Waddell. He ran the Atlanta Thrashers when they were the Wolves’ parent club, a pairing that resulted in two Calder Cup titles in Rosemont.
That relationship ended in 2011 when the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg. Since then, the Wolves have gone through pairings with Vancouver (2011-13), St. Louis (2013-17), and now Vegas (2017-20).
Levin confirmed the Wolves and Hurricanes are talking, but echoed Waddell’s comments that nothing is finalized. He’s hoping that something between the two sides becomes official soon.
“Wherever Don Waddell was, I’d love to be affiliated with him,” Levin told the Sun-Times. “He knows the game. He knows the players and he likes to see his players win. Winning two championships with him in the past was fun and we’d like to keep doing it. Hopefully we’ll get something done.”
The Charlotte Checkers, currently the Hurricanes’ affiliate, released a terse statement confirming the impending Wolves-Hurricanes union. They will be losing an in-state parent club, and right now the only NHL team without an AHL affiliate is the Florida Panthers.
“While we are aware that the Carolina Hurricanes are nearing an affiliation agreement with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, the Hurricanes have had little dialogue with us regarding this matter,” the Checkers said. “In an era when NHL teams are placing great value on affiliations with closer proximity between the two clubs, we understand the confusion that such a move would cause. We will explore other options for our affiliation and look forward to continuing in the American Hockey League when play resumes.”
The Wolves and the Hurricanes organization have a history that goes beyond Waddell. In 2019, the Checkers beat the Wolves in the Calder Cup Finals, though both rosters have subsequently undergone heavy turnover. Mike Vellucci, Charlotte’s coach that season, left soon after the Finals for a job leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The News & Observer also reported that Ryan Warsofsky, currently the Charlotte coach, would carry on with the Wolves. Warsofsky, 32, is in his first season as Checkers head coach.
“Regardless of where we go, we feel we’ve got a real good coaching staff and that staff will continue wherever we go,” Waddell said. “We think Ryan and his crew have done a really good job for us. Either way, Ryan will be the coach of our farm team next year.”
Charlotte had a 34-22-5-0 record when the season was suspended.