PORTLAND — For the fourth time in the team’s history, the Portland Pirates are changing National Hockey League affiliates.

The Pirates, who have been part of the Arizona Coyotes organization for four seasons, announced Wednesday an end to that agreement following this season, and a new, four-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

“We are very excited about this partnership. Florida is a great organization, headed in the right direction in the NHL’s Eastern Conference,” said Brad Church, the Portland Pirates’ chief operating officer, in a news release. “With an exciting roster built around promising young players, our fans will have the chance to see their prospects complete the full development process which will begin here in Portland.”

The Panthers are currently affiliated with the San Antonio (Texas) Rampage.

“Portland is a vibrant city and hockey-rich market that will provide our prospects with an exceptional environment for growth and development,” Eric Joyce, the The Rampage’s general manager, said in the release. “The Pirates roster will include our organization’s top prospects who will compete and play an exciting style of hockey for the fans of Portland.”

Joyce is expected to retain his role with Florida’s affiliate through the transition.

The Rampage are currently in fourth place in the AHL’s Western Conference and boast a 35-20-5-1 record.

The Coyotes have not announced with which AHL team they will be affiliated next season.

“I would like to thank Don Maloney, Ray Edwards, and the entire Arizona Coyotes management, coaching, and training staffs for four great years,” Church said. “A special thanks to all the players who have come through Portland over this time for your time, efforts, and contributions to the Pirates’ community, both on and off the ice. We will continue to work together through the end of the 2014-2015 season in which we hope brings a long playoff run.”

Portland has been home to an AHL team since 1977, with the exception of the 1992- 93 season. Portland’s original AHL team, the Maine Mariners, won Calder Cups in 1978, 1979, and 1984. The Mariners relocated to Providence to become the Providence Bruins at the conclusion of the 1991-92 season. The Pirates were born in 1993, one year later, with the relocation of the Baltimore Skipjacks.

The Florida Panthers, established in 1993, will begin their 22nd NHL season in 2015-16. Playing out of the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida, the Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996 in only their third year of existence. Florida also won the NHL’s Southeast Division title in the 2011-12 season under the guidance of former Pirates head coach Kevin Dineen.


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