The Quad-City Mallards announced Thursday they have entered into a multi-year agreement to serve as the ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Vegas Golden Knights and the AHL's Chicago Wolves.
“I am very familiar with people in both organizations, so I am confident this affiliation will be a great fit for the Mallards,” Mallards president and general manager Bob McNamara said. “We’re very excited to have the unique opportunity to work with the Golden Knights from Day 1 and equally thrilled to affiliate with one of the AHL’s flagship franchises in the Wolves.”
Vegas is entering its first year as an expansion team in the NHL. The Golden Knights currently have just three players signed to the roster, forwards Reid Duke, Vadim Shipachyov and Tomas Hyka, who was signed Thursday. Vegas will fill out its roster with an expansion draft on June 21, as well as at the NHL Entry Draft from June 23-24, in which the Golden Knights own the sixth overall pick.
McNamara doesn't foresee the lack of players currently on the Vegas roster as anything that will directly affect the Mallards, who had to submit their player protected lists to the ECHL on Thursday.
"I don't think it impacts us significantly. It's more about our discussions with the Wolves right now and we have time to go through things with them," McNamara said. "They'll know what they're going to be doing with Vegas once the drafts are over."
The Mallards had been affiliated with the Minnesota and Iowa Wild over the past three seasons. Though Minnesota has made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, their AHL affiliate has not made the playoffs since moving to Des Moines in 2013.
The Wolves, affiliated with the St. Louis Blues since 2013, had made the playoffs in three of the four years of that affiliation, including going 44-19-13 this season but announced last month they were entering into a multi-year affiliation with Vegas.
In their history, the Wolves have twice won the AHL Calder Cup after also claiming a pair of Turner Cups from their time in the International Hockey League.
The Mallards have made the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, but have advanced past the first round just once.
"We just felt from an organizational standpoint, in order to get deeper into the playoffs, we needed a change," McNamara said. "We're excited to be working with the guys at the Wolves and Vegas as well. It's a bit of a fresh affiliation start for us."
Though the Mallards had primarily been affiliated with the Wild, they did have a working relationship with the Wolves over the past three seasons. Defenseman Jani Hakanpaa was reassigned to the Mallards for two games in 2014, and forward Zach Pochiro played 44 games with the Mallards in 2015.
McNamara has had a lengthy working relationship with Chicago general manager Wendell Young dating back to McNamara's time with the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins as well as with Vegas president Kerry Bubolz.
“There’s a common philosophy between our three organizations,” Young said. “Vegas wants to win, we want to win, and Quad-City wants to win, so there’s an ideal structure here.”