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Stanley Cup Contender Announces New Minor League Affiliate

Florida Panthers affiliate

While the Florida Panthers are in the middle of a heated Stanley Cup Championship battle, they announced that they have reached a new multi-year affiliation agreement with the ECHL’s Savannah Ghost Pirates. The Ghost Pirates will join the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers in their affiliation with the Panthers.

A New ECHL Affiliate for the Florida Panthers

For the past few years, the Florida Panthers affiliated with the Florida Everblades in the ECHL as well as the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers. While the Everblades had some Kelly Cup Championships, the Panthers decided to move on with a new affiliation.

The Ghost Pirates are a fairly new professional hockey team in the ECHL. Only two seasons into their existence, the Ghost Pirates came into the league as an expansion team in 2022. They were affiliated with the Vegas Golden Knights for their first two years as well as the Henderson Silver Knights of the AHL. Even though have failed to make the playoffs yet they also hosted the 2024 ECHL All-Star Game.

With Lake Tahoe getting an ECHL team and Vegas likely changing their affiliation to that organization, Savannah needed a new NHL and AHL affiliate. Many thought the Panthers or Carolina Hurricanes could be potential suitors as Carolina doesn’t currently have an ECHL affiliate and Florida was moving on from the Everblades. In the end, it was Florida.

Moving Forward

The ECHL is one of the feeder leagues for the NHL and the second highest after the AHL. While most players in the ECHL never see NHL ice, there are some notable NHLers who started there. Looking at the Florida Panthers specifically, Carter Verhaeghe and Steven Lorentz both started their professional careers in the ECHL before making it to the top league.

This move also makes logistical sense. While the Ghost Pirates are further from Florida than the Everblades, they are closer to Charlotte (where players would be moving from Savannah). All three teams are in the Southeast making it much easier for player movement and scouting. While Savannah, Georgia isn’t known as a hockey hotbed, the Ghost Pirates have made their presence known and the city has really embraced them. It should be fun to see what the Panthers/Ghost Pirates affiliation may bring.

Main Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports


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