BY mike griffith Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
It appears the Condors will be without a National Hockey League affiliation this year.
"It's a good chance we won't have one," said first-year coach Matt O'Dette. "It's not the end of the world. Certain situations have made it difficult to get one. There are advantages and disadvantages to having one and we'll just roll on."
The Condors have been affiliated with NHL teams the past three seasons -- last season with the Minnesota Wild and with the Anaheim Ducks the previous two seasons.
O'Dette said he worked hard to secure an affiliation.
"We wanted one, no question," he said. "It's glamorous, I guess, to have one, but not always beneficial. If the affiliate is totally on board with what we're trying to do at this level, it can be good. If they are just using the ECHL as a place to put players they aren't interested in developing it's not so good. Sometimes you live and die by the affiliate."
A big plus of an affiliation is that players assigned to an ECHL team only cost that team $525 per week against the $12,400 weekly salary cap and many of those assigned players would cost much more on the open market. The downside is getting players who aren't all that good and must play while better players sit.
"It's not totally dead yet, you never know," O'Dette said of an affiliation. "But the way I look at it is there's going to be (AHL) teams that need to put players somewhere and we are an attractive place for that. At the same time, that allows us to be selective in the guys that are offered to us. We can pick and choose."
O'Dette said the lack of an affiliation may pay dividends in goaltending since agents are looking for ECHL teams to place experienced netminders.
"We've got goalies coming off of National Hockey League and American League contracts looking for a place to play," he said. "We have a pretty good pool of goaltending to choose from now because we don't have an affiliate goalie. If we have an affiliate goalie we have to play him, regardless of how good or bad he is."
O'Dette said he had hoped to bring back goaltender Brian Stewart, who was assigned to the Condors by Philadelphia last season. But Stewart, a free agent, has been offered a one-way American League contract.
"It's tough to lose a guy like that, but he can't turn down a one-way deal to a team that wants to pay him a lot of money," O'Dette said. "But we have a short list of some very good goaltenders and we hope to get one or two of them signed next week. We have the opportunity to get two high-end goaltenders at the right price."
O'Dette said the team would be announcing a couple more signings early next week -- a forward and a defenseman -- and said he was pretty happy with the building process.
"We'll have a competitive, hard-working team," he said. "A team extremely difficult to play against.
"We're a couple of snipers away from being really solid. We're going to be strong at goaltending and on defense and there are new guys coming on the table every day and it will be nice to have a spot or two open when they come to market."