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AHL team coming to Florida!


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When the Coyotes signed a multi-year deal with the Utah Grizzlies to become their American Hockey League affiliate last year, the organization looked forward to the close proximity of their prospects once the NHL lockout ended.

Turns out, the lockout lasted longer than the Grizzlies did.


Wednesday, the AHL?s Board of Governors granted Utah and owner David Elmore a voluntary suspension of operations for the 2005-06 season ? and in effect, severing all ties with the Coyotes.


As reported in the Tribune last month, Elmore is in negotiations to sell his AHL rights to the Florida Panthers ? who will move the team to Orlando next season ? paving the way for him to bring a Central Hockey League or East Coast Hockey League team to Salt Lake City.


The move didn?t come as a surprise to the Coyotes, but with one year plus an option left on their deal, they aren?t very happy about Elmore?s move. The team will turn the matter over to its legal department, which might be able to prove damages now that the Coyotes are left hunting for a home for their prospects.


"Naturally, we are disappointed. We had a multi-year deal and David made a unilateral decision to end it,?? Coyotes general manager Mike Barnett said. "We?re left on our own to come up with something. We loved having the team that close, after having to go to Springfield (Mass.) in the past. It?s the kind of setup we want to have.??


The Coyotes have three options. They can attempt to buy an AHL team or sign a primary affiliation deal, they can share an affiliation as they did in the past with Tampa Bay (the Springfield Falcons), or they can place four or five prospects with several AHL teams.


Barnett said the first option is by far the best. "We want our prospects playing for our coaches. That?s our focus,?? he said.


And if the Coyotes move that way, their destination is likely San Antonio. The Rampage are co-owned by the Panthers and the NBA?s San Antonio Spurs, but the Panthers will be looking for a buyer if the deal with Elmore and Utah gets done. Without Utah, San Antonio is the closest AHL team to Phoenix ? about 20 minutes farther by plane.


The Coyotes would rather sign another affiliation agreement than own half an AHL franchise, but if they buy into the Rampage they won?t have to worry about another owner selling the team.



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