UPDATE: The Canadiens made the news official today.
The Canadiens will not have an official ECHL affiliation next year. Their deal with Brampton was not renewed. Brampton becomes Ottawa's ECHL affiliate.— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) September 8, 2018
Montreal will loan their AHL/ECHL players to others teams if need be.
It appears the Montreal Canadiens will have to find a new ECHL affiliation for the 2018-19 season as the Brampton Beast have agreed to an affiliation with the Ottawa Senators. The agreement between the two Ontario teams was revealed at the 2018 Rookie Showcase.
Montreal was affiliated with the Beast for three seasons, with the Canadiens originally sending draft pick Dalton Thrower to Brampton at the tail end of the 2014-15 season as a litmus test for the organization while still sharing the ECHL Wheeling Nailers with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Montreal was pretty transparent that this was a test,” said Beast President Cary Kaplan in an interview last September. The Habs and the Beast officially aligned for the 2015-16 season, and renewed the affiliation annually since then. Kaplan had expressed his desire for a longer-term agreement, but that never materialized.
The Canadiens were the first NHL affiliation for the fledgling ECHL team, however in their inaugural season as part of the Central Hockey League in 2013-14 they partnered with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who would go on to have three affiliates that season, including Syracuse in the AHL and Florida in the ECHL.
During the three-year arrangement with Brampton, no Habs player worked their way from the ECHL to the NHL, despite several Canadiens draft picks playing in the city. Tim Bozon, Connor Crisp, Zachary Fucale, Mark MacMillan, Mac Bennett, and Thrower all spent time in Brampton, but never excelled past the AHL. The last skater who graduated from the ECHL to the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens was David Desharnais, who played for the Cincinnati Cyclones in 2007-08. MIke Condon is the most recent riser from the ECHL to the NHL. He played for the Wheeling Nailers in 2013-14. The Canadiens also sent a handful of AHL-contracted players to Brampton, but few ever stayed for any significant amount of time.
Last season the Beast saw more interaction with their secondary partner, the Senators, than the Canadiens. Although the ECHL no longer allows dual NHL affiliations, a secondary working agreement can be in place with an NHL team to allow their players to be sent down to the ECHL team.
For Montreal, options for an ECHL affiliation this coming season are fleeting. Not many teams remain who have not affiliated for the new year. The Rapid City Rush and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits remain as teams with no immediate NHL suitors. A few more are still looking to renew existing affiliations.
With roughly 35 players currently slotted for the AHL Laval Rocket, obviously the need for a third-tier team is urgent. Perhaps the long-term plan is the rumoured expansion to Trois-Rivieres, but for this upcoming season it could get really crowded in Laval. A secondary working agreement with some ECHL team remains a possibility in order to alleviate the backlog.
UPDATE: The Maine Mariners, affiliated with the New York Rangers and managed by Daniel Brière, may be the team that the Canadiens have a working relationship with this season.
Bouchard mentioned having a good relationship with Daniel Brière. Expect the Habs to send their ECHL players to Maine.— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) September 8, 2018
Canadiens ECHL Affiliation History
Stability has rarely been a hallmark of Montreal’s ECHL affiliations.
- 1992-1996, Wheeling Thunderbirds (jointly with the Edmonton Oilers)
- 1996-1997, Wheeling Nailers
- 1997-1999, New Orleans Brass (jointly with the Edmonton Oilers)
- 2000-2001, Tallahassee Tiger Sharks (jointly with the Edmonton Oilers)
- 2001-2002, Mississippi Sea Wolves (jointly with the Phoenix Coyotes)
- 2002-2004, Columbus Cottonmouths (jointly with the Edmonton Oilers)
- 2004-2006, Long Beach Ice Dogs
- 2006-2010, Cincinnati Cyclones (jointly with the Nashville Predators)
- 2010-2015, Wheeling Nailers (jointly with the Pittsburgh Penguins)
- 2015-2018, Brampton Beast
Contrast that with the Pittsburgh Penguins who have been affiliated with the Wheeling Nailers since 1998-99, with one-year breaks in 1999-2000 and 2013-14.