With the news that Central Hockey League teams the Arizona Sundogs and Denver Cutthroats have folded, Pro Hockey Talk is reporting that interested western conference teams are looking to move to their top prospects soon.
The latest comes from Howlings.net, where Dave Cantlon suggests the formation of a Pacific Division in the AHL could begin as early as next fall [in 2015].
Cantlon states that both the Colorado Avalanche and the Arizona Coyotes have purchased American Hockey League franchises and that the Cutthroats will be the Avs' new farm team while the Sundogs will now be the Coyotes' farm team.
In their respective team press releases both Denver and Arizona said they would return to play next season, but not stating which league. Denver team will play out of the Denver Coliseum and Prescott Valley at 4,810 Tim Toyota Center [...]
This would be in addition to LA moving the Monarchs to Ontario (Citizens Business Bank Arena is about 45 miles east of Staples Center) and San Jose moving the Worcester Sharks to Fresno. Winnipeg, which owns the St. John’s IceCaps, would relocate to Thunder Bay, Ont.
However, these are currently just rumors as AHL officials deny any transactions have taken place. According to an article in the Maine Journal, Dave Cantlon's assertions could not be verified.
AHL Vice President of Communications Jason Chaimovitch said that he was aware of the article and that it was "100 percent inaccurate and no franchise purchases have taken place."
Likewise, Coyotes’ GM Don Maloney through Rich Nairn, Coyotes Vice President of Communications said the team has not purchased an AHL franchise.
The article goes on to quote Brad Church, AHL Governor and Portland Pirates’ (Arizona's current AHL affiliate) Chief Operating Officer as saying that there has been no talk or anything to indicate that Cantlon's recent claims have merit.
"There has been no talk of a west coast division since the annual meeting in Hilton Head. Zero. Nothing has been brought to us to look at or even consider. No American Hockey League franchise have been bought, sold, transferred, loaned, leased, borrowed, bartered, nothing."
Until any actual transactions are made (at which point they will become public), these are currently just rumors but they appear to be gaining strength every day. Whether or not this becomes like the NHL's worst kept secret remains to be seen.
One thing seems clear, though: the power (at least in terms of quality of competition) in the NHL has shifted to the west and they're looking to get better, not worse. Owners and GMs alike are keen on having their top prospects nearby, both from an economical and practical standpoint. How soon they get their way, only time will tell.