Idaho Steelheads fans could be seeing players who are one step closer to the NHL in the next couple of years.
The upcoming Seattle NHL franchise, which is scheduled to begin play during the 2021-22 season, is looking at Boise as a potential market for its American Hockey League franchise, Dave Tippett, an adviser for the franchise, told a Seattle radio station on Tuesday.
Tippett appeared on Softy and Dick on KJR Tuesday during the 'Tuesdays With Tipp' segment and told hosts Dave Mahler and Dick Fain that two of the markets the team had been looking at were Boise and Palm Springs, California.
It was unclear if Boise and Palm Springs were the only candidates, or even the leading candidates, but Tippett said they had it narrowed down to “a couple that I think would be good options” before mentioning the two cities after being pressed.
“We've got to be somewhere in the west here for travel, schedule wise, everything,” Tippett told the show. “I've been approached by some different cities around. We're working away hard at it, nothing official yet.”
Idaho Steelheads president Eric Trapp confirmed to the Idaho Press on Wednesday that the team had been contacted by the Seattle franchise and that Boise has been looked at, but said no negotiations have taken place regarding moving the team to the AHL from the ECHL.
“We're always interested in making sure we're positioning Boise and the downtown and our arena to be having hockey for a very long time,” Trapp said. “Whatever position or league provides us the opportunity to have the longest term and the best possible situation is what we're going to try and do. And we've always been trying to do that from Day 1. Right now we have an ECHL franchise, we know we're going to have hockey, we own the franchise, we have it. So if anybody comes at us, we're always willing to look at any situation.”
A move to the AHL would potentially give the Steelheads a chance to highlight future NHL stars, as teams are more likely to send top prospects to the AHL club as opposed to the ECHL. There are currently three first round picks from the 2018 NHL Draft playing for AHL affiliates, 13 from the 2017 first round and 12 more from the 2016 draft.
Players drafted by NHL clubs can play junior hockey until they are 20, or play college hockey if they have NCAA eligibility remaining.
“It's a critical point, you have to have a good development system in the NHL,” Tippett told KJR “When it's a salary cap league, you've got to be able to draft and develop players. It's kind of an underscored thing with the organization, but you got to have a good development system to make you a good team.”
Tippett has some familiarity with Idaho, as he was the coach of the Dallas Stars, the Steelheads' parent NHL club, from 2002-09.