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AHL adding 31st team so every NHL franchise has its own affiliate

The Colorado Eagles are joining the AHL in 2018-19 to become the Avalanche’s new affiliate.

The NHL 100 presented by GEICO - Show Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

For the first time since 2010, there aren’t enough teams in the AHL to give every NHL franchise its own minor league affiliate. To address the problem, the Colorado Avalanche will elevate the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles to the AHL for the 2018-19 season to rebalance the two leagues, according to the Denver Post’s Mike Chambers.

The NHL currently has 31 teams after expanding with the Vegas Golden Knights for the upcoming season. That’s created a problem with AHL affiliation because that league only has 30 teams, not enough to give each NHL organization an exclusive farm team.

The St. Louis Blues don’t have their own AHL affiliate for the 2017-18 season after the Chicago Wolves signed a partnership with the Golden Knights. The Blues and Golden Knights will have to share the Wolves for the upcoming season, but that was always going to be a short-term compromise, rather than a real solution.

Now it appears all parties have their answer to the problem. The Eagles, who play at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colo., will move from the ECHL to the AHL starting with the 2018-19 season. Their venue holds 5,289 for hockey but “likely will be renovated to accommodate larger crowds.”

The Avalanche’s current AHL affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, will then become the Blues’ minor league team.

So for the 2018-19 season, the Golden Knights will have the Wolves, the Avalanche will have the Eagles, the Blues will have the Rampage, and every team will be back to having its own AHL affiliate. That’s the way it should be, anyway.