There were fantastic moments -- namely winning the ECHL’s Kelly Cup in 2021 -- and times of frustration throughout the Komets’ four-year affiliation with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.
The union is now over.
The Golden Knights are affiliating with the ECHL’s newest team, the Savannah Ghost Pirates, a source confirmed, with the announcement being made today in Savannah, Georgia.
So, the Komets are in search of a new NHL partner, which may not be totally bad news given the seemingly strained relationship between Fort Wayne and the Golden Knights.
The affiliation yielded talented players this season for Fort Wayne, namely Connor Corcoran, Jiri Patera and Lynden McCallum, but the Komets also lost players like Matthew Boudens on call-ups to the American Hockey League’s Henderson Silver Knights, who were one rung higher in the Vegas feeder system. And as the Komets’ roster was pillaged by other AHL teams, a product of the pandemic, the Silver Knights didn’t send much help -- leading to speculation the affiliation would end even if the Ghost Pirates didn’t come calling.
The Komets, who lost to the Wheeling Nailers in overtime of Game 7 of the Central Division semifinals, have partnered with four NHL teams -- Anaheim, Colorado, Arizona and Vegas -- throughout their 10 seasons in the ECHL and also spent two seasons without an affiliation.
The Komets’ first Kelly Cup championship was backstopped by a Vegas prospect, goaltender Dylan Ferguson, and the affiliation yielded players such as Jermaine Loewen, Brayden Pachal, and Mason Primeau for stints in Fort Wayne.
The Komets recognized that the Golden Knights, founded in 2017, were a young team still building its minor-league system, and talked about wanting to build a long-term partnership with the Golden Knights, but the relationship seemed to sour over time from the Fort Wayne perspective.
The Komets have had success in the ECHL without an affiliation, upsetting the Reading Royals to reach the second round of the 2014 playoffs, and also reaching the second round in 2017. The Komets advanced to the conference finals in 2016 as a Colorado affiliate and in 2018 as an Arizona affiliate.
However, especially after the financial losses suffered during the pandemic, the Komets would surely rather not be an independent team again. An affiliation gives Fort Wayne access to NHL- or AHL-contracted players at a discount, and it’s a key recruiting tool since Fort Wayne players can get spots in AHL training camp or be called up throughout the season.
It’s unclear at this point which NHL teams the Komets could speak with about a new affiliation, but the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks would immediately seem possibilities since they didn't have ECHL affiliations this season.
The Sharks have worked with Fort Wayne before, namely calling up goalie Samuel Harvey to the AHL's San Jose Barracuda this season. Fort Wayne's coach is Ben Boudreau, who is in negotiations to return next season, and his father, Bruce, coaches the Canucks.
Other NHL teams that could be contacted by Fort Wayne include the Los Angeles Kings, with whom they've had informal working agreements before, the St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets.