No one doubts the Komets are going to affiliate with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights again, but general manager David Franke stressed today that it’s not a done deal because nothing has been signed and ECHL approval hasn’t been gained.
Things could still, technically, go sideways.
"We haven’t received any paperwork, so I haven't reviewed the paperwork,” Franke said, asked about a Fox 55 (WFFT) report intimating it was a done deal. “It won't be done until we get the paperwork signed, get it from them and make any necessary changes."
Assuming the deal is finalized – and The Journal Gazette has been reporting for many weeks that it will – fans of the Komets will have reason for optimism about that partnership and a likely-to-happen less-formal working agreement with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Golden Knights should be able to assist the Komets more than last season, when goaltender Zach Fucale was the No. 1 goalie here, forward Matthew Weis played only six games, and not another player came to Fort Wayne via the affiliation.
Some of the same local fans who were gaga over a partnership with the Golden Knights last fall, enraptured by Vegas’ appearance in the 2018 Stanley Cup Finals in their first season, had soured on it because so little help was provided during a tumultuous Fort Wayne season that ended with a first-round playoff loss to the Toledo Walleye.
A less-than-fruitful first year with Vegas was predictable, though, because Vegas was too young to have a fully stocked minor-league system and the team one step above Fort Wayne, the American Hockey League’s Chicago Wolves, are not a historically great partner for Double-A level teams.
There’s no telling if Chicago will be more willing to help, especially after it reached the AHL finals, but at least we know the Golden Knights will have more players in the pipeline who could wind up in Fort Wayne.
The biggest name to follow is goaltender Dylan Ferguson, 20, who played for the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers last season and was 17-24-1 with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. He actually saw 9 minutes of action with the Golden Knights last season when they were short-handed.
The Komets, who have signed only one goaltender so far, rookie Stephen Dhillon, are clearly holding at least one goaltending spot, if not two, for NHL prospects, and Ferguson looks like the most logical Golden Knight to land in Fort Wayne.
Members of Komets management met late last season with Golden Knights management to discuss the future. Surely, if the Komets came out of that meeting feeling they would only get as much help as last season, when Chicago called up Marco Roy, J.C. Campagna and Brady Shaw, the Komets would have parted ways instead of seeking a renewal of the affiliation.
The Kings also should have a handful of players to send to Fort Wayne – maybe even goalie Cole Kehler – after its ECHL affiliate of last season, the Manchester Monarchs, folded. The Komets have a good friend on the Kings’ staff, former Fort Wayne coach and player Robbie Laird, who is Los Angeles’ senior pro scout, so one would think the Kings would take good care of Fort Wayne.
So far, Komets coach Ben Boudreau isn't resting on his laurels; he has re-signed Shaw, Shawn Szydlowski, Anthony Petruzzelli, Jason Binkley and Chase Stewart, and added highly-regarded rookies Dhillon, Matthew Boudens and Eric Israel.
But the prospect of getting more than two NHL prospects, something closer to what Toledo and the Cincinnati Cyclones have had from their affiliations, should be exciting to Fort Wayne fans.
That is, of course, assuming the affiliation agreement with Vegas gets signed.
“We’ll review it and if we have any questions, we’ll have to talk to (Vegas),” Franke said. “There’s nothing to talk about now because there's nothing done.”