Reign president Justin Kemp said Tuesday that he is still having “serious discussions” with one NHL team about becoming the Reign’s second affiliate for next season.
Asked to estimate the chances of it happening at this point, Kemp said, “hopefully 75 percent, at least.”
But time is of the essence. Signing an affiliation agreement as soon as possible “would be more beneficial to us than to the NHL team,” Kemp said.
Each summer, typically in July, Kings assistant general manager Ron Hextall gives Reign coach Karl Taylor an early estimate of who might be assigned to Ontario. That’s an important part of the process of building the team’s roster. The second affiliate would already be behind schedule in providing its estimate.
Kemp also wants to be able to incorporate the second affiliate into the Reign’s promotions.
The Reign have been the sole ECHL affiliate of the Kings since their inception. Hextall said three weeks ago that “we weren’t too excited about” sharing Ontario with another NHL team.
Kemp said he would be respectful of the Kings’ interests and exclude the Ducks, who share the Southern California sports market, from any affiliation talks. He did not specify which of the other 28 NHL teams he’s still talking to.
A strong, but unconfirmed, possibility is the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks lost their ECHL affiliate when the Victoria Salmon Kings ceased operations, so it would make sense that Canucks management would seek out a new affiliate (one in the same time zone, no less).
With both the Kings and Canucks both expected to battle for the top playoff seeds in the Western Conference, that could create an interesting dynamic if prospects from both teams are playing in Ontario.