The Vancouver Canucks have officially purchased a minor league hockey team from the St. Louis Blues, intensifying speculation that the NHL club is trying to relocate its farm team to the Fraser Valley.

In a release, Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini called the purchase of the American Hockey League’s Peoria Rivermen “an exciting opportunity for the Canucks.”

“The purchase of the Peoria franchise allows us to take an important step and assume full control of our minor league development program,” he said.

The Canucks currently have an affiliation agreement with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves, meaning they can develop their talent with the team, but do not own it.

Both the Canucks and Blues declined further comment until the AHL approves the deal.

If a deal is approved it would mean the Canucks would no longer be affiliated with the Wolves.

There have been rumours that the team would like to relocate its own AHL franchise to Abbotsford, where the Abbotsford Heat currently play, but sources say no request for relocation of the Rivermen has been made by the Canucks.

The team has until a May 13 Board of Governors meeting to ask for relocation. If they do, the board will hold a vote to approve the transfer.

The Heat, currently affiliated with the Calgary Flames, have seen attendance decline since they moved to the city in 2009.

It's believed a Canucks farm team in Abbotsford would lead to a spike in attendance from fans wanting to catch a glimpse of Vancouver’s top prospects in action, but the Flames would need to agree to a move first.

The Flames and Heat also have until May 13 to ask for relocation.