Kevin Dineen is no longer coach of the Portland Pirates, but he may remain close to the franchise.
Dineen, who became the Florida Panthers’ coach Wednesday, said he would like the Pirates to become Florida’s new top affiliate.

The Panthers ended their affiliation with the Rochester Americans and are looking for a new AHL home.

“I have a place that I certainly prefer where they’ll be,” said Dineen. “I’ve worked in Portland. I know the quality of life there for the players is great for them to develop as players. I know (the Panthers) haven’t had a strong fan base there, but (the fans) are passionate about hockey.”

Last month, The Associated Press reported the Buffalo Sabres, the NHL affiliate of the Pirates for three seasons, had signed a nonbinding letter of intent to purchase the Americans.

The Sabres ended a 29-year affiliation with Rochester in 2008, but Terry Pagula, a Pennsylvania billionaire who purchased the Sabres last February for $189 million, has expressed interest in moving the AHL affiliate back to Rochester.

The problem is the Pirates and Sabres agreed to an extension of their affiliation agreement last spring. It now runs through the 2013-14 season.

Still, Dineen said a swap of affiliates is feasible.

“I think it’s a very realistic possibility,” he said. “Certainly on our end, speaking on behalf of the Panthers, there’s a strong interest in our coming to the Portland area. It gets down to dollars and cents, and the business logistics.”

Neither Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier nor Brian Petrovek, the Pirates’ CEO/managing owner, would comment directly on the possibility of an affiliation switch.

“It’s something that all parties are working on, and I really have to leave it at that,” said Regier. “I can’t comment beyond that.”

“If there are things going on in our league, it’s best to let it happen,” Petrovek said. “At the present time we have a relationship with the Buffalo Sabres, and I think it’s inappropriate for me to comment beyond what (Regier) has said.”

Dineen said his family thoroughly enjoyed living in Maine.

“Our six years in Portland literally may be the best six years of my life,” he said. “I guess that’s a lot to say when you have played in as many NHL cities as I have. It says how much our family was made to feel welcome. Really, it was an incredible fit for us, and we enjoyed being there.”

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

pbetit@pressherald.com

Twitter: PaulBetitPPH