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Updated COVID Realignment Puts Panthers in Central, Swaps Out Others

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Florida Panthers, NHL Division realignment

It won’t be an ideal division realignment for any team, except those clustered in the Northeast. On Wednesday, the league shared the proposed NHL division realignment with players and the Board of Governors. It seems the Florida Panthers could have some new rivals, at least temporarily.

The NHL apprised its Board of Governors of the proposed realignment in a 4 p.m. conference call. The proposal differed significantly from the one seen a few weeks ago. The necessity of the all-Canadian division forced the realignment. The Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, and even the Pittsburgh Penguins have been shuffled around.

The Panthers proposed new division includes some geographic rivals, some laborious travel, and later start times. The division alignment is:

Panthers-Tampa Bay Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes, Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, and the Minnesota Wild.

“Not everyone walks away (from the proposal) totally happy,” TSN reporter Frank Seravalli said during his televised report. “There was certainly some lobbying for teams to be moved around and positioned properly.”

The NHL originally placed Pittsburgh in the Central Division. However, it appears the Pittsburgh lobbying efforts were successful. In the latest draft, the NHL returned Pittsburgh to the Eastern Division and replaced them with Carolina in the Central.

“The Pittsburgh Penguins wanted to make sure they stayed in the East. The Minnesota Wild wanted to be with the Central teams. Same with the Dallas Stars,” Seravalli reported. “…but they wanted to have three divisions of eight in the U.S., and it’s all still subject to change.”

The Central and Western Division alignment does leave something to be desired. The league separated Minnesota and Chicago from St. Louis and Colorado. In fact, the NHL placed Dallas and St. Louis in the Western Division.

The NHL return has accelerated since last Friday when the NHL owners officially abandoned their pursuit of additional revenues from the players. The league decided to affirm the CBA agreement signed last June and focus on the season’s framework instead.

A 56-game schedule that begins on Jan. 13 remains in the proposal stage but still unofficial. Training camps are rumored to begin on Jan. 3.

As a result of the compressed timeframes, NHL trade talks and rumors are also heating up.

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