Today the Seattle Kraken announced that the Charlotte Checkers will be the team’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate for the upcoming 2021-22 season. While the Kraken’s long-term AHL affiliate will be located in Palm Springs, California, that team won’t begin play until the 2022-23 season. That left the Kraken needing to find an AHL affiliate for its inaugural season.
As a core piece of its roster management, every NHL team signs an affiliation agreement with an AHL team that allows them to send players back and forth between the two clubs. These agreements are a result of the reality that NHL teams have more players under contract than roster spots, and the Kraken will be no exception. The Kraken will select 30 players in the upcoming expansion draft and will sign additional players in free agency. Because an NHL roster can have no more than 23 players, some players will necessarily have to be sent down to the minors before and during the season. With this agreement, any players the Kraken send to the AHL this season will go to the Checkers.
When affiliation changes happen, two NHL teams sharing an AHL affiliation is a common practice. That will be the case this season with the Checkers. The Kraken will share the Checkers affiliation with the Florida Panthers, who already had an existing multi-year affiliation agreement with the Checkers. When two teams share an affiliation, they each can send a certain number of players to the AHL club. As part of this affiliation agreement, the Kraken will be able to send eight to twelve players to the Checkers. Per a team press release, the Panthers will provide the Checkers’ head coach, while the Kraken will have the opportunity to provide an assistant coach.
Despite Charlotte’s location far from Seattle, the Kraken’s choice of affiliate isn’t surprising. The Checkers were the AHL affiliate for the Carolina Hurricanes for a decade from 2010-2020. The Kraken have numerous Carolina connections including GM Ron Francis, Assistant GM Ricky Olczyk, and Director of Amateur Scouting Robert Kron. All three have experience working with the Checkers organization during their time with the Hurricanes. That familiarity should lead to a smooth transition and a beneficial working relationship between the two sides. In Charlotte, the Kraken have found a good home for their AHL players to develop before the permanent move to Palm Springs next year.