Two days after the Peoria Rivermen played their final game as the Blues’ American Hockey League affiliate, the NHL parent club announced a merger with the Chicago Wolves Tuesday night.
The Blues recently completed the sale of the Rivermen to the Vancouver Canucks, and it was approved by the AHL last Thursday. In a separate deal that had been months in the making, the Blues will move forward on a three-year agreement with the Wolves, who have been the Canucks’ affiliate the past three seasons.
“They’re a top American Hockey League franchise and to be associated with such a winning organization is going to be very beneficial for the Blues,” general manager Doug Armstrong said. “Peoria is a great hockey market and we’ve been there for a number of years, but our belief is from a hockey operations standpoint moving forward, the organization in Chicago, the ownership group, the facility they play in ... it just seemed like the right time to make the move for us.”
The swap has a cost-saving element for the Blues, who purchased the Peoria franchise under previous ownership in July 2008. The Rivermen were included in the package that a group of local investors, led by Tom Stillman, purchased in May 2010.
The Chicago Wolves are independently owned by Don Levin, meaning the Blues will save on annual operating costs with their affiliate.
The Wolves, who joined the AHL in 2001, play their home games at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. The club has won two Calder Cups (2008, 2002), qualified for the postseason in eight of its 12 seasons and never had a losing season as an AHL franchise.
“There was a view from Vancouver that they were going to move on and Doug called and sat down with my owner and we had a conversation, and it just went from there,” said Wolves GM Wendell Young. “Just knowing the reputation of Doug and the management here, the organization, and knowing that it was a good fit for us, we knew what we wanted.”
Also on Tuesday, Vancouver officials met with the Peoria Civic Center. The Peoria Journal-Star reported there were “good discussions” regarding a potential deal that could keep the AHL franchise in Peoria.
HAKANPAA CALLED UP
Blues defensive prospect Jani Hakanpaa, 20, was “stunned” to receive a call-up from the club when Peoria’s season ended Sunday.
A fourth-round draft pick in 2010, Hakanpaa (6-foot-5, 218 pounds), played in Finland this season, after which he reported to Peoria. In 14 games with the Rivermen he had one goal and three assists.
Hakanpaa was preparing to return home to Finland when notified he was headed to St. Louis.
“It took a while before I really understood what happened,” said Hakanpaa, who is not expected to play this season unless there’s an emergency. “Just try to soak in everything, learn from the guys and use that to my advantage next year.”
Right winger T.J. Oshie practiced with the club Tuesday, one week after surgery to repair his injured ankle. ... Goaltender Brian Elliott was nominated for the Masterton Memorial Trophy by the St. Louis chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.