You often hear ECHL fans complain about Affiliation Agreements when their favorite team loses players to the AHL. Why does this seem like a one way street is a sentiment often expressed. There is no doubt relationships vary depending on which NHL team an ECHL team affiliates with. Today I want to talk about Allen’s Affiliation Agreement with the Minnesota Wild. I am by no means an expert on this topic but I spend enough time with Steve Martinson to develop my own opinion on how things have worked with Allen and the Minnesota/Iowa Wild.
– If you looked at Allen’s Affiliation Agreement with the Minnesota Wild you would be struck by the fact that most of the agreement, which is a 10 page document, is boilerplate language included in all ECHL Affiliation Agreements. There are a few sections that contain several options to pick from and others that require specific language. Some of the major sections include:
1. Contract Term (current agreement is one year)
2. Assignment of Players
3. Assignment Period
4. Assigned Player Cost
5. Financial Obligation of Parties (includes equipment, travel, moving costs, fine payments, CBA related costs, training camps)
– The formal Affiliation Agreement sets the parameters, roles and responsibilities but what makes it work is relationships and Steve Martinson has an outstanding relationship with the Wild. Martinson and Minnesota Assistant General Manager who is the General Manager for Iowa Wild, Tom Kurvers, both grew up in Minnesota, trained in the summers together and have been friends for many years. When Bill Guerin was hired as the General Manager in Minnesota he invited Martinson and assistant coach Jason Deitsch to attend the Traverse City Prospects Tournament along with the Wild staff.
– Coach Martinson worked with the Wild in the off season which resulted in AHL contracts for Olivier Archambault and Alex Breton. He also was able to get slots in the Traverse City tournament, Minnesota Wild training camp and the Iowa Wild training camp which is a big help when recruiting players. Martinson has always been known as a coach that loans players to the AHL. His recruiting pitch was, “I can get you to the Iowa camp and it is up to you to show them you belong.” Josh Atkinson and Matt Register were able to make the Iowa Wild team out of training camp.
– The Wild were very generous with slots at their training camps. Two Allen players were at the Traverse City tournament, five at the Wild NHL camp and 10 attended the Iowa Wild training camp. The Wild pickup all expenses for Allen players to attend these camps so it is a big financial commitment. This was by far the most players Allen ever sent to their affiliate’s camps.
– The Wild also committed to sending more contract players to Allen this season. This is a big financial benefit to Allen because contracted players salary is paid by the Wild. The Americans reimburse the Wild $525 per week ($75 per day) for the time contracted players are assigned to Allen. This can be a big savings in managing the salary cap as only $525 counts against the cap. Some players, if under a NHL contract, are making over $100,000 per year with bonus and salary. The minimum AHL salary is $50,000 so it is expensive to have contract players in Allen. Here are the Wild contracted players that have spent time in Allen this season with games played for the Americans. This list will grow as the season progresses and the Wild get injured players, who have been out long term, back in the lineup.
37 – Jack Sadek
37 – Alex Breton
31 – Tyler Sheehy
26 – Olivier Archambault
26 – Stepan Falkovsky
23 – Nick Boka
4 – Dereck Baribeau
2 – Dmitry Sokolov
Total games – 186
– I know it can be frustrating for Allen fans when Wild contract players are recalled (Sheehy, Baribeau) or Allen contracted players are loaned (Ottenbreit), as recently happened. However, that is the nature of an affiliation. I can assure you these moves don’t take place without a conversation with Steve Martinson. As a matter of fact, it is a strength of the relationship that the Wild come to Allen when they need a player to be loaned. If they wanted to do so, Iowa could go to another ECHL team and find a free agent that is better than the player from Allen. Instead, they give the opportunity to an Allen player. Here are the Allen contracted players that have been loaned to Iowa this season listed by games played. I don’t include Josh Atkinson’s 37 games, even though he was an Allen contracted player at the beginning of the season, because he recently signed a Standard Player Contract (SPC) with Iowa.
20 – Matt Register
12 – Turner Ottenbreit
4 – Les Lancaster
Total Games – 36
– Iowa coach Tim Army has helped Steve Martinson by calling players Martinson was recruiting. It is a big help when a player gets a call from Allen’s AHL affiliate’s head coach talking about opportunities. This doesn’t happen with many affiliations.
– The Wild have given Martinson access to all of their scouting reports which is also a great help in recruiting. Martinson told me this is the first affiliation he has had with access to this information.
– Allen has had more visits this season from the Minnesota Wild Player Development Staff and others than in any other season.
– The bottom line, my opinion is the affiliation with Iowa is very strong and will only get better. Is it perfect, no. I think the biggest issue for coach Martinson is when he loans a player, especially when shorthanded, and they sit out in Iowa.
– I would expect you will see more players assigned to Allen by Iowa, you may see more Allen players signed by Iowa and Iowa will give Allen help when it really counts, at playoff time.
DID YOU KNOW: Have you ever wondered if coach Martinson is required to play contracted players assigned by Iowa. The affiliate agreement says this about playing contracted players assigned to Allen. “All players shall be given fair and equal consideration for playing time as determined at the sole discretion of the ECHL member’s head coach.”