Five things to wonder about realignment

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Realignment talk is going to dominate NHL discussion today and tomorrow and with the latest proposal being leaked out and discussed, there’s a few things to keep in mind while the Board of Governors meet in Pebble Beach to figure out which direction the league heads in.

1. Rivalries

The playoffs always help make a rivalry real. The NHL adopted an unbalanced schedule to force rivalries to happen and while that’s been nice, it hasn’t paid off. Going back to a balanced schedule and a playoff format with the top four teams in each conference facing each other first in the first two rounds is the right way to make it happen. Old hate becomes new hate and new hate is good for business.

2. The Phoenix Situation

This could be the final year we see the Coyotes play in Glendale. Deciding on realignment without knowing where the Coyotes could land next is tricky. Elliotte Friedman reports that their next location could be any of Seattle, Quebec City, Kansas City, or Las Vegas. If they move to Seattle or Vegas, fine. Kansas City or Quebec could create headaches. The NHL better have a backup plan for where the Coyotes can switch to just in case.

3. Detroit and Columbus and Nashville and Dallas

These four teams all want their travel problems alleviated. Detroit and Columbus want to be with more easterly teams, Nashville wants something similar, while Dallas wants to be lumped in with the Central Division teams for travel purposes. If they’re going to do radical realignment, getting all of these teams what they want is difficult but there’s got to be compromise. Will the balanced schedule be enough?

4. Plan C is for “cop out”

If none of the radical proposals work out, the one move that will end up playing out is seeing Winnipeg swapped out with either Detroit or Columbus. If this is the one move that’s made, that’s a big failure for the Board of Governors. If selfish needs and petty desires get in the way of fixing things up, they should feel ashamed. They’ll also have to hear a lot from Columbus/Detroit and Dallas management at the very least. Who wants to listen to a cranky Mike Ilitch anyway?

5. Embrace being different

Fans seem to want things to be somewhat the same but just a little bit different. The NHL isn’t like the other major sports and should embrace being different. Hockey’s uniqueness makes it special. A four conference format? Have at it. Divisional/Conference playoffs to decide who goes to the NHL final four? Go for it, it worked in the 80s. Doing things old school is all the rage as it is, having the league embrace it would be beautiful.

Islanders sign 2016 first-round pick Bellows to entry-level deal

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The New York Islanders made a few roster moves Friday. That included sending 2016 first-round pick Kieffer Bellows back to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

Shortly after that, it was announced that Bellows and the Islanders agreed to terms on a three-year entry-level contract.

The Islanders originally selected Bellows with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.

The 19-year-old left winger played one year at Boston University, tallying seven goals and 14 points before deciding to leave school to play this season in the WHL, which has a completely different schedule from college.

“Play more games,” Bellows told NHL.com in July. “I think just the 72 games in the [WHL] regular season is the biggest thing. I can’t thank [Boston University coach David] Quinn enough and all the guys on the team. I had an unbelievable first year at Boston University, but I just felt it was best for me to go and play more games.”

Stamkos to make preseason debut tonight vs. Predators

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For the first time since Nov. 15, 2016, Steven Stamkos will be in the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup.

Per Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the prolific scorer will play tonight for the Bolts, as they continue the preseason against the Nashville Predators.

Stamkos suffered a knee injury last November. He underwent surgery but didn’t make it back to the lineup for the remainder of the year, marking the second time in four years his regular season was derailed by a significant injury.

“Listen, I snapped my leg in half and came back and was playing the best hockey of my career,” Stamkos told the Tampa Bay Times, referring to his broken leg suffered during the 2013-14 season.

“So this is another hurdle. I’m confident that when you put in the work, you’re going to find ways. It may be different ways. You may have to adjust certain parts of your game. But we’ll handle that when I see how it feels in a game situation. We’ll know more tonight.”

Given such a lengthy time away from game action, it might be wise — at least early on — to temper expectations of Stamkos.

He is one of the league’s most dangerous scorers. But he also hasn’t played a game in 10 months. In a conversation with the Tampa Bay Times, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise, who had the same surgery in 2010, said it “took probably a year and a half to get back to feeling back to normal.”

It appears Stamkos will center a line tonight with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, who should certainly be pleased to be playing alongside No. 91.

Habs place Redmond on waivers — again

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A number of players found themselves on waivers Friday, including Montreal depth defenseman Zach Redmond.

(CapFriendly has an extensive list of players on waivers, which you can check out here.)

Redmond is in the final year of a two-year contract with the Habs, who already had a crowded blue line with eight defensemen signed for this season and Jakub Jerabek making the move from the KHL and looking to earn a roster spot out of camp.

Noah Juulsen was also a prospect defenseman to watch in camp, however, he recently suffered a fractured foot and is out six weeks.

Redmond, who was previously placed on waivers in January, split last season between Montreal and the Habs’ AHL affiliate in St. John’s, where he had 18 points in 26 games.

Now 29 years old, Redmond has 130 games worth of NHL experience with Winnipeg, Colorado and Montreal.

Report: Oilers and potential UFA Maroon talking extension

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The Edmonton Oilers and forward Patrick Maroon are reportedly discussing an extension, according to TSN’s Ryan Rishaug.

Maroon spent a good chunk of the season playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and it showed in his numbers.

The 29-year-old scored a career-high 27 goals (he had never scored more than 11 goals in a season) and 42 points in 81 contests.

Maroon is in the final year of a three-year contract that came with an annual average value of $2 million. You’d have to think that he’s in line for a raise.

“Obviously without those two I wouldn’t have the success I did, but sometimes you’ve got to give yourself some credit too,” Maroon said earlier this month, per NHL.com. “Those two are very tremendous players, and for me I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing to stay with them.

“Obviously [Oilers coach] Todd McLellan had a really big part in that. He gave me an opportunity to play with those two. For me, I’ve just got to continue what I did last year, come [to training camp] in really good shape again, and hopefully good things fall into place again.”