FORT WAYNE — The Komets’ orientation to the ECHL will continue Tuesday when team president Michael Franke sits in a room with representatives from 22 other teams at the ECHL’s annual meetings in Las Vegas. The meetings run through Friday.
“This will be a learning experience for us,” said Franke, whose team won the championship in the CHL in May and then moved to the ECHL. “I don’t recall being in a league meeting with as many teams as there are in the ECHL. That, on its own, will be very, very interesting.”
The original IHL had as many as 19 teams (1996-97) when the Komets were in it. The UHL peaked at 15 teams, including the Komets, in 2000-01. The second incarnation of the IHL was up to seven teams in 2009-10. And the CHL had 18 in 2010-11, though it will be down to 11 this season.
Most of the major decisions – salary cap, roster rules and schedule – have already been made. The divisional alignments and playoff format still need to be finalized.
New ECHL teams Fort Wayne, Evansville, Orlando and San Francisco will be interested parties at the meetings.
“There will be a lot of, ‘OK, what are we going to do next year? Does anybody have any thoughts or ideas on changing anything?’ ” Franke said.
“I would suspect most things (changed) would not start taking place until 2013-2014. This is a good-practices type meeting where you try to share ideas where you say, ‘You are doing this well, doing that well. How do you do that? And how do we do that in our market?’ ”
The collective bargaining agreement between the ECHL and the Professional Hockey Players’ Association expires in 2013. Komets goaltender Nick Boucher is currently attending the PHPA meetings in Orlando.
While Evansville signed an affiliation agreement with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday, the Komets are still evaluating their options. They had an affiliation with Columbus in 2010-11, which wasn’t very fruitful, and Fort Wayne would probably prefer to keep control of its roster. However, the NHL meetings are in Las Vegas next week, too, and the Komets may have discussions with some NHL teams.
ECHL teams can begin signing players today, but don’t expect the Komets to make any announcements right away, even though playoff MVP Mike Vaskivuo has already signed to play in France and CHL teams have been hovering around Boucher and Brett Smith.
“I think all the players will be selective, especially coming off a championship season,” said general manager David Franke, who won’t go full bore with negotiations until after the meetings.
“Their value will be higher than it was at this time last year. … It’s going to be a lot of new faces, a lot for sure. We will probably have six-to-eight players back and then fill in with new players. But we want to make sure we have the correct core.”