VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Canucks have been given 30 days by the American Hockey League to decide what they are going to do with their AHL franchise.
The Canucks received that extension at an AHL board of governors meeting Monday in Springfield, Mass. Canuck assistant general manager Laurence Gilman attended that meeting but refused interview requests.
The Canucks really have two choices to make regarding the Peoria Rivermen franchise they purchased earlier this year. After deciding against leaving the team in Peoria for the 2013-14 season, they must either find a new home for the team or they can pay the AHL a $150,000 fee and have the league declare the franchise dormant for one year.
That latter option is the least palatable one for the Canucks as it would mean the team would have to scatter its prospects around the AHL and have them playing under a variety of different systems and coaches, outside their sphere of influence.
That clearly is not the best way to develop your prospects and not what general manager Mike Gillis had in mind when he said at his post-season news conference last Thursday that he planned to "reset" the organization after the Canucks bowed out in the first round of the NHL playoffs for the second straight year.
But the Canucks have obviously had difficulty finding a new home for the Rivermen and have ruled out leaving the team in Peoria for one more season.
The Peoria Star Journal reported Monday that the Canucks recently notified Peoria Civic Center that they would not operate the team in the Illinois city next season.
That decision was made after the Canucks unsuccessfully tried to negotiate favourable terms from the city and arena in order to keep the team there.
Scott Arniel, who coached Vancouver's AHL team in Chicago last season and has two more years on his contract, is among those most interested in learning where the team will land.
"You know, these conversations started a while ago and it has gone everywhere from Abbotsford, to Rogers Arena, to Peoria. to who-knows-where," Arniel said in a phone interview Monday. "Obviously you want to get an answer soon and get organized. The players will have been in three different cities in three years -- the guys who were in Winnipeg and Chicago and now to a new city -- so you do want some stability that way. It's a tough decision, but I know the Canucks are working towards getting their own team somewhere and have a spot where they can groom their young players."
Arniel is convinced the Canucks will not allow its AHL franchise to go dormant.
"From all the talks that I have heard recently, I think something is going to get done. You can't go dormant when you have got that many players that need to play. If you try and put players around the league, it's hard to do. Everybody has got prospects and everybody knows they need those players to play. I think we are going to see the team somewhere, we are just figuring that out now."
The Canucks bought the team from the St. Louis Blues hoping they could move it to Abbotsford. But negotiations between the Canucks and the City of Abbotsford failed after the two sides could not agree on who should compensate the Calgary Flames for giving up the sweetheart lease deal they have for their Abbotsford Heat franchise.
The Canucks can not operate its AHL team at Rogers Arena, as it is inside the Abbotsford Heat's territorial limits.
Gillis seemed adamant at his news conference last week that the Canucks would own and operate their own AHL franchise beginning next season.
"That is going to be a significant step in the right direction in terms of development for this organization," he said. "We are going to have an opportunity to control the entire development process now as opposed to not being in a position to do that. I think it is going to be very helpful. I can't say where that team may end up at this point. We are in active negotiations with a couple of different places, but it will be a much better opportunity in the development process."
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