The next step for the Komets, now they’ve officially broken off their affiliation with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, will almost certainly not involve being an independent.
"Independent has not been a word that has been discussed on our end," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "We’re definitely looking to have some avenues to where guys can get called up. We’re definitely open to mutually beneficial working agreements, (which) is what they would be called."
The Komets called it a mutual decision in their announcement Tuesday of the termination of the deal with Colorado, which had a final season remaining on the agreement.
"Fort Wayne is looking for more roster control and flexibility," Komets general manager David Franke said in a statement issued by the team. "Colorado understands this philosophy, and the Komets understand Colorado must develop players. Roster stability is very important to us and our loyal fan base. We expect less turnover and more continuity in our game-night lineup."
The Komets spent two seasons with the Avalanche, reaching the second round of the 2015 ECHL playoffs. This spring, the Komets won the Midwest Division and reached the Western Conference finals before losing to eventual ECHL champion Allen.
The Komets have been independent for most of their existence. However, prior to partnering with the Avalanche, the Komets had acknowledged the difficulty of succeeding in the ECHL without talented NHL prospects.
It appears that another direct affiliation agreement with an NHL team might not be possible this offseason.
"Typically, those things take a little bit more time to cultivate," Graham said. "It’s not that it couldn’t happen. We’re talking with a few other teams (about a working agreement, a less-formal version of an affiliation)."
A news release stated the Komets "enjoyed" the partnership with the Avalanche and are leaving it in "amicable fashion."
"The No. 1 thing from our end is just more roster flexibility with guys coming in and out," Graham said. "I think last year it didn’t work out from both sides, and that’s probably why management on both sides agreed to mutually part ways.
"For our coaching staff, we’re always developing players, not just NHL and AHL players but our own ECHL-contracted players and making sure we’re doing everything to promote those guys and get them called up. We’ve had a lot of success with the Colorado players. The roster flexibility is the No. 1 thing. (A working agreement) is typically less players than what a full affiliation is, so you might get a guy or two from one organization or a guy or two from another organization to where it’s not just six, seven, eight guys all from one.
"We’re working a lot of contacts right now on seeing what’s out there, what’s available, who wants to work with us."