Report: Canucks moving AHL affiliate to Utica


The good people of Utica, New York, haven’t had an American Hockey League team to support since they were cheering on the Devils, starring a young Jim Dowd, in 1993.

But it appears the AHL will be returning to the Utica Memorial Auditorium next season in the form of the Vancouver Canucks’ minor-league affiliate.

Per News 1130 Sports in Vancouver, the league will vote in favor of the move on June 13.

The Canucks have been looking for somewhere to put their AHL affiliate since purchasing the Peoria Rivermen franchise from the Blues.

“Utica definitely has hockey in its blood,” the city’s mayor Robert Palmieri told the Vancouver Sun recently. “Utica is a hockey town and it’s been that way for years and years and years. I think, quite frankly, bringing in another AHL team makes a tremendous amount of sense. I think Vancouver and Utica would be just a perfect marriage for great hockey in this area.

“I’m very optimistic. We are a city on the rise and I think there is a lot of interest in hockey. Behind the scenes, we’ve been working diligently for multiple months and I’m very encouraged. I think it would be outstanding for civic pride for Utica to have another AHL team.”

Utica had previously attempted to attract the Abbotsford Heat, Calgary’s AHL team.

At the same time, the Canucks had explored placing the Rivermen in Abbotsford, a suburb of Vancouver. However, no deal was ultimately struck.

While Vancouver and Utica are across the continent from each other, the Canucks’ prospects stand to enjoy a relatively easy AHL travel schedule in upstate New York compared to the one the Heat face.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.