The Wolves and the Carolina Hurricanes finally made it official.
After months of speculation, the expected agreement was announced Thursday to make the Wolves the Hurricanes’ AHL affiliate. The deal is a three-year pact, and will see Carolina shift its AHL operations from the Charlotte Checkers. Ryan Warsofsky, who coached the 2019-20 Checkers, will lead the Wolves.
The pact marks a reunion with the Wolves and Carolina general manager Don Waddell, who ran the Atlanta Thrashers when they were the Wolves’ parent club. That pairing resulted in two Calder Cup titles, and it’s something the Wolves hope to repeat.
“It will be fun,” Wolves chairman Don Levin said during a teleconference. “It will be good. We have good communication between the teams. I think that this is going to be great.”
The Wolves spent the last three seasons as the affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights, but that agreement dissolved once the 2019-20 campaign ended. Vegas purchased the San Antonio Rampage and moved them to Nevada, where they will play as the Henderson Silver Knights whenever the 2020-21 AHL season commences.
The Wolves-Waddell relationship was put on hold 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 Vegas (2017-20).
Levin would like to see this pairing last, like it did when the Wolves worked with Waddell’s Thrashers from 2001-2011.
“It’s the most important thing,” Levin said. “We worked with Don for 10 years and we were very, very happy. We never had a problem ever.”
Philosophically, Levin and Waddell seem aligned.
During Thursday’s Zoom teleconference, both stressed the importance of developing young players by winning on a roster supplemented by veterans. That understanding, along with financial considerations such as the Wolves’ willingness to pay veterans, led Carolina to end its relationship with the in-state Checkers.
“It’s a combination,” Waddell said. “When you’ve worked with people in the past and you know you have a good relationship and it’s worked in the past, I think that’s the first thing you have to look at. Money is great, but if you can’t work with somebody and it’s not going to be a good spot for your players, you could have all the money in the world but what we’re talking about is small peanuts when you talk about developing players for your National Hockey League team.”
Even though the affiliation agreement is done, there are other challenges ahead for the Wolves and the AHL. The season won’t start until Dec. 4 at the earliest, and what the 2020-21 campaign will look like is still an open question.
One thing Levin said the independently owned Wolves won’t need is financial support from Carolina to play games in empty venues if necessary.
“There’s a lot of things that could happen,” Levin said, “but we’re big boys. We don’t need help from Carolina for the money for that.”
NOTE: The Wolves announced the Run With The Wolves Virtual 5K. Results must be submitted by Oct. 17, and proceeds from every registration will benefit Chicago Wolves Charities.