The Hamilton Bulldogs are losing their lesser affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning but they may have a second National Hockey League parent club.
Andre Savard, assistant general manager of the Montreal Canadiens -- the Bulldogs' primary NHL affiliate -- says he's working to get an agreement for a secondary relationship in Hamilton.
The agreement which the Canadiens had with Tampa this past season allowed the Lightning to place four players in Hamilton.
For most of the season they had three, Eero Somervuori, Jimmie Olvestad and Alexander Svitov who was traded to Columbus in February.
Springfield Falcons become Tampa's sole AHL farm team next season.
"I expect that we will have an association with another team similar to the one we had with Tampa Bay this year," said Savard.
"It worked out well with Tampa Bay and the guys that they had in Hamilton did a good job. Their guys played and everyone was happy."
Savard wouldn't name the possible new team.
"It's not done and I don't want to say who it is in case it doesn't happen but we'll get it done," said Savard.
It wouldn't, however, be a stretch to assume it's the Chicago Blackhawks who are pulling out of Norfolk.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens have some of their own player decisions to make in Hamilton. Eric Fichaud, Benoit Gratton, Benjamin Carpentier and Patrick Traverse are all unrestricted free agents and the Habs must decided if they offer them new contracts.
They also have to decide whether to exercise their options on J. F. Damphousse, Philippe Plante, and Gordie Dwyer.
And clouding the picture is the uncertainty of what will happen in the NHL next season with a lockout or a player strike a real possibility in September.
What that will mean for the farm teams is still anybody's guess although the AHL insists it will operate next year.
"There has been a lot of talk about it in the dressing room," says Plante who was the Bulldogs' player rep this season to the Professional Hockey Players' Association (PHPA).
"I think one of the effects (among free agents) is that there will be a lot more players going to Europe next season."
"For players who are on two-way contracts, I don't think it will have that big an affect because the PHPA has assured us that there will be hockey in the AHL next season."
Savard said one thing the Habs will have to weigh in deciding which free agents to sign and whose options to pick up is how many players they will sign to entry level contracts. They are the players coming out of North American junior or college hockey or young European players. They've already inked goaltender Yann Danis, who they brought to Hamilton after his college career was done in March, so in all likelihood they have to make room in Hamilton for him.
Others who Savard thinks could find their way to Hamilton if Montreal can get them under contract include centres Cory Urquhart (Montreal QMJHL), Corey Locke (Ottawa OHL), left winger Michael Lambert (Montreal QMJHL) defenceman Mark Flood (Peterborough OHL) and right winger Andrei Kastsitsyn (Russia).
"We had a good team in Hamilton last year and this year," said Savard.
"We want to put a good product on the ice (in Hamilton) and we want to have a team that can win."
What I personally don't like is that they are going to put more players from another organization on the team. I have never liked this, and to see them do it for a 3rd year is frustrating. It's worked well so I can see why they are going back to it, but I would prefer to see all of our guys on the team.
Also I hope that Cote and Robinson are signed by the Habs. I assume the goalies will be Danis and Damphousse, but I'd rather see Danis and Fichaud. Put Michaud in the ECHL. On defense, I hope Shasby gets a spot, Archer will need to step up, and I would think that Plante will be back and Cote as well. Our defense should be the biggest weakness next year from the early look of things. I assume they will lose one of Hainsey/Beauchemin, Traverse and Dykhuis I wouldn't expect back either, so that opens a few spots for sure. Flood, Korneev and Glenn are all possiblities as well plus any overagers from the CHL.
But if the Dogs can sign Kastsistyn, Locke, Lambert, and Urquhart, that's a heck of a lot of offensive power added to the team, who will need it due to the loss of Perezhogin and Gratton seems like he could be gone as well. Then there's Plekanec Higgins and Hossa who could all see time with the Habs but I'd be surprised if all 3 made the team full time.
One things for sure, Hamilton is looking like it's going to be a very different team next year, for the 3rd season in a row. Should be very interesting what Savard does down there.