St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe says the search to find a hockey franchise to replace the departing Montreal Canadiens farm team is already well underway.

The Canadiens announced Monday that the St. John's IceCaps will move to Laval in time for the 2017-2018 hockey season.

"I know that there are people who are working assiduously to bring another team, a professional team, into the city of St. John's," said Dennis O'Keefe.

He says the loss could have a sizable economic impact on the city, but underscored that Mile One staff are looking for ways to keep the stadium occupied. 

But one downtown St. John's businessperson worries the IceCaps departure could cut into her restaurant's profits.

"It's a concern there are going to be less people around, less activity around," said Kim Soper, owner of the Express Cafe.

Soper says the AHL players often stopped in for breakfast and sometimes hired the cafe to cater evening events.

"It's always brought people into town, and the Montreal Canadiens being such a popular team for St. John's it will be disappointing to see them go," she said.

St. John's IceCaps vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms

The St. John's IceCaps are expected to move to Laval for the 2017-2018 hockey season. (twitter.com/IceCapsAHL)

Announcement expected 

The Montreal Canadiens announced at a press conference Monday that Laval, Que., will be the new home of its farm team for the 2017-18 season.

The Canadiens moved its farm club from Hamilton to Mile One last season for a two-year contract, after the Winnipeg Jets moved its AHL affiliate from St. John's to be closer to the parent club.

One more season in St. John's was possible if the arena in Laval wasn't ready in time for the 2017-18 season, but the city says construction is on schedule for a September opening.

Canadiens owner Geoff Molson and general manager Marc Bergevin as well as Laval Mayor Marc Demers are expected to be at Monday's press conference.

When asked for comment on the future of the AHL hockey in St. John's, IceCaps director of communications Dave Salter said, "We have no comment at this point."

Farm team will be closer to home

The team will play at Place Bell, a new, $120-million, 10,000-seat arena with adjoining practice rinks.

When the team moves to Laval, it will mark the first time the Canadiens have had its AHL affiliate within the same province since the Quebec Citadelles merged with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2002.

The move will put the Canadiens' farm club just a 40-minute drive away from Montreal, making it easier for the team to call players up to the big league.

The baby Habs will begin a public contest for a new team name, and will ditch the IceCaps moniker they had in St. John's.

The IceCaps name was born in 2011 when the Manitoba Moose moved to the city. The name survived the transition from the Winnipeg Jets affiliation to the Montreal Canadiens affiliation in 2015.

The Habs departure is a familiar story for St. John's hockey fans: the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs left Newfoundland in 2005 to be closer to its parent club in Toronto.