The Buffalo Sabres were looking for a new ECHL affiliate for 2023-24 after mutually agreeing to not extend their agreement with the Cincinnati Cyclones at the end of the season. According to a report from Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News, the club has signed on with the Jacksonville Iceman for next season.
— Jacksonville Icemen (@JaxIcemen) July 12, 2023
“We want to thank the New York Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack for their affiliation for the past two years,” said Icemen Head Coach & Director of Hockey Operations Nick Luukko in a release announcing a Monday press conference to reveal the affiliate change. “We are looking forward to the depth of talent our new partners have in their system. Our goal is to continue to improve and bring the Kelly Cup to the best fans in the league. We are confident our new NHL and AHL partners will add talent to the Icemen that can move us forward.”
Buffalo and Cincinnati had been linked since 2017 when the Sabres ECHL affiliate in Elmira, NY ceased operations, but last month the Cyclones signed an agreement with the New York Rangers. Jacksonville had been associated with New York since 2021, so in essence, the two NHL clubs swapped ECHL affiliates.
The new agreement may cause some issues with supplying replacement players to the Rochester Americans in a timely manner that they did not have with Elmira (a two-hour drive) or a short flight from Cincinnati. This could force the Sabres AHL affiliate to keep more players on hand in case of injury or fatigue at certain points during the season.
Grading The Summer Additions
The Sabres received an above-average B+ grade for their free-agent acquisitions from The Athletic‘s Matthew Fairburn. Buffalo’s additions on defense (Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton) improved their depth, but Buffalo struck out on adding a forward. The addition of a veteran goaltender was not included in the evaluation, but that could be the biggest shortcoming in the club’s pursuit of a playoff spot next season.