The Seattle Kraken will have an AHL team all to their own, but it won’t happen until 2022-23. That’s when the Palm Springs AHL franchise is set to start play, meaning the Kraken needed to find a partnership for the upcoming season. That agreement has now been announced with the Charlotte Checkers, the primary affiliate of the Florida Panthers. The Checkers will serve as the development stop for both Kraken and Panthers prospects next season.
Rick Olczyk, the Kraken assistant general manager, explained that his team will supply between eight and 12 players to the Checkers, including one goaltender. Those players will come from the initial expansion draft as well as free agent or trade acquisitions. Most of the players selected in the upcoming entry draft will not be eligible for AHL action, provided their respective leagues get underway as planned.
This was an obvious connection, given Kraken GM Ron Francis’ history with the Checkers during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. For years, the Checkers were the AHL affiliate for Carolina, and Charlotte CEO Michael Kahn expressed his excitement about this new agreement:
We are excited to work with Ron Francis again as we help develop the inaugural group of Seattle Kraken prospects. We feel the partnership between ourselves, the Kraken and our primary affiliate, the Florida Panthers, will give the Checkers a strong pool of players for the upcoming season.
This is the same setup that the Vegas Golden Knights went through in their first year, before buying and relocating an AHL franchise to Henderson. Expansion teams do not have long enough depth charts to really fill out an AHL roster in the first year, meaning a development partnership like this is more than enough. Obviously, once Palm Springs is up and running it will be more beneficial to have their prospects and depth options closer to Seattle, but for now, those names will be playing on the other side of the country in Charlotte.