On Monday morning, the Canadiens confirmed one of the worst kept secrets in hockey over the past couple of years, that they will be moving their farm team to Laval in time for the 2017-18 season.
This means that Montreal’s second year in St. John’s, Newfoundland will be their last. The Canadiens moved their AHL team out East after they purchased it from Michael Andlauer (who remains a part owner of the Habs) last year. That came on the heels of Andlauer securing a deal to bring the OHL’s Belleville Bulls to Hamilton which essentially forced out the AHL Bulldogs. (Coincidentally, Belleville appears to be on the verge of landing Ottawa’s AHL team next season.)
By this time, plans were already underway for the new Laval rink but the Habs needed a place to put their farm team in the short-term. With the St. John’s market losing the Jets’ farm team, it was a logical match despite the logistical and financial challenges associated with having a team there. Montreal signed a two year deal (plus an option) with St. John’s, one that expires following the 2016-17 season.
There are plenty of advantages to having their farm team close by. Not only does it allow players to be shuffled back and forth a lot easier (which can help on the salary cap), it also allows management to keep closer tabs on the players. It’s also a boon for the local fan base that will now have the opportunity to see Montreal’s prospects more regularly instead of just once or twice a year at the Bell Centre.
The Habs have moved or changed their AHL affiliate quite a bit in their history. Here’s a look at their affiliates over the past 50 years:
2015-2017: St. John’s IceCaps
2002-2015: Hamilton Bulldogs
1999-2002: Quebec Citadelles
1990-1999: Fredericton Canadiens
1984-1990: Sherbrooke Canadiens
1971-1984: Nova Scotia Voyageurs
1969-1971: Montreal Voyageurs
1967-1969: Cleveland Barons