PORTLAND — The Portland Pirates, in conjunction with the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League, announced today that they will enter into a multi-year player-development deal beginning in the 2015-16 season and running through 2018-19.

This affiliation will see the Panthers move their current American Hockey League prospects from San Antonio, Texas, to Portland. As part of the agreement, the Panthers will supply players, coaches and hockey operations staff to the Pirates. This will be the fifth NHL affiliation for the Pirates in their over twentyyear history in Maine.

“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 COO. “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.

“Florida’s commitment to serving the community outside of the arena directly aligns with our commitment to having a positive impact in the Greater Portland area. This long-term partnership will bring great things to the Pirates Hockey Community both on and off the ice for many years to come.”

“Portland is a vibrant city and hockey-rich market that will provide our prospects with an exceptional environment for growth and development,” said Eric Joyce, who is the General Manager of the San Antonio Rampage, Florida’s current AHL affiliate. “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, who will serve as the new General Manager for Portland, will work with the Panthers and the Pirates to oversee hockey operations. Under his leadership the Rampage are currently in fourth place in the AHL’s Western Conference and boast a 35-20-5-1 record.

“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.”

The Portland Pirates, established in 1993 after the relocation of the Baltimore Skipjacks, is the fourthlongest tenured AHL franchise operating continuously in its current market. Currently in its 22nd season, Portland is only surpassed by the Hershey Bears (established 1938), the Rochester Americans (1956) and the Providence Bruins (1992) in longevity in their current cities.

The Pirates won the AHL’s top prize, the Calder Cup, in 1994 and reached the Calder Cup Final again in 1996. Portland reached the AHL’s Eastern Conference Final in 2006 and 2008. The Pirates have qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs a total of 15 times.

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 team’s home facility, the Cross Insurance Arena, reopened last year after a $35 million renovation project which transformed both the exterior and interior of the building. Originally known as the Cumberland County Civic Center, it has been home to both the Mariners and Pirates since it opened in 1977. The building, which seats 6,157 for hockey, hosted the AHL All-Star Classic twice, in 2003 and 2010.

Players in the Florida system with potential to play in Portland starting next season include forwards Connor Brickley, Rocco Grimaldi, Quinton Howden, Logan Shaw, Garrett Wilson, Chris Clapperton, and Zach Hyman. Possible defenseman coming to Portland include Jonathan Racine, Josh Brown, and Mackenzie Weegar, along with goalie Michael Hauser.