Mar 19, 2013; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks center Jordan Schroeder (45) during the third period against the St. Louis Blues at Rogers Arena. The Vancouver Canucks won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Utica, N.Y. is the "Front-Runner" for Canucks AHL Team: Report

The city of Utica, New York is reportedly the “front-runner” to be the home of the Vancouver Canucks-owned American Hockey League franchise.

The Province reports the Canucks tried to keep the team in Peoria, but were not happy with the city’s request of a break-even budget. The attempted relocation to Abbotsford also fell through. Utica had been the Canucks’ Plan C.

A source has indicated Utica, N.Y. is the front-runner to be named home to the Peoria Rivermen, who were purchased from the St. Louis Blues on April 18. …Utica was always somewhere on the radar.

Former NHL goaltender Robert Esche is leading a group of investors looking to bring professional hockey back to Utica. The Canucks have until June 12 to reach an agreement with them and apply to the AHL Board of Governors for the relocation of the Peoria Rivermen franchise to Utica, where they will play out of the 4,000-seat Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Even though Utica may be the front-runner, it might still be difficult to get a deal done. Esche and the city will want a long-term commitment, while Canucks will want something shorter to the tune of one or two years. The Canucks will want to the opportunity to negotiate with the city of Abbotsford again next year after they ran out of time to make the move in time for the 2013-14 season.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis expressed desire to have their AHL team in the west so the prospects could take advantage of the team’s resources. Any move to Utica would be temporary in the eyes of the Canucks.

If an agreement is not reached by then, the Canucks will be forced to suspend the operations of the franchise and pay the league a $150,000 fee. The Canucks prospects would then have to be individually assigned to different teams.

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