Gary Bettman

It’s official: NHL realignment approved for next season

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The National Hockey League will have a decidedly new look in 2013-14.

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On Thursday, the league officially announced realignment had been approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors, the final step required after the NHLPA agreed to realignment seven days ago.

The most notable changes are Detroit and Columbus moving to the Eastern Conference and Winnipeg moving to the West. Dallas, Minnesota and Colorado will all stay in the Western Conference, but move into “more geographically appropriate and time-zone friendly” divisions.

The other notable change? The new new alignment ensures that all 30 teams play in all 30 arenas at least once a season for the first time since 1997-98.

Here’s the breakdown:

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As for the postseason…

The Stanley Cup Playoffs will still consist of 16 teams, eight in each conference, but it will be division-based and a wild-card system has been added as a new wrinkle.

The top three teams in each division will make-up the first 12 teams in the playoffs. The remaining four spots will be filled by the next two highest-placed finishers in each conference, based on regular-season points and regardless of division. It will be possible, then, for one division to send five teams to the postseason while the other sends three.

The seeding of the wild-card teams within each divisional playoff will be determined on the basis of regular-season points. The division winner with the most points in the conference will be matched against the wild-card team with the lowest number of points; the division winner with the second-most points in the conference will play the wild-card team with the second fewest points.

The teams finishing second and third in each division will play in the first round of the playoffs. The winners of each series will play for the divisional championship.

As for the reaction to realignment? Responses have varied, though you can count Columbus among those pleased by the development.

“[This realignment] would help us in so many ways that it’s really hard to exaggerate how much it means to us,” Blue Jackets president Mike Priest told the Columbus Dispatch.

The club is anticipating bigger rivalries against the likes of regional foes such as New York, Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Toronto, and is happy to be playing 68 games in the Eastern time zone (rather than 50-53 in previous seasons.)

For more on the new schedule matrix and breakdown of the alignment plan, click here.

Report: Leafs in process of acquiring Brian Boyle

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 13:  Brian Boyle #11 of the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrates a goal against Detroit Red Wings during a game at the Amalie Arena on October 13, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)
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The Toronto Maple Leafs are buyers.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Leafs are in the process of acquiring forward Brian Boyle from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The deal hasn’t been finalized yet, so no word on a return for the Bolts.

Boyle, 32, is a pending unrestricted free agent. Given the Lightning are fairly well back of a playoff spot and have a number of young pending RFAs — including Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Jonathan Drouin — it makes sense for GM Steve Yzerman to trade Boyle now, a la Ben Bishop.

Boyle has 13 goals and nine assists in 54 games this season. He also has a ton of experience, having appeared in 100 postseason games for the Rangers and Lightning.

The Leafs are not assured of a playoff spot quite yet. Barely clinging to the second wild-card spot in the East, they kick off a three-game California trip tomorrow in San Jose.

Another Canadian team, the Edmonton Oilers, was also reportedly interested in Boyle.

Trade: Wild and Coyotes pull off another, as Pulkkinen heads to Arizona

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 23:  Teemu Pulkkinen #17 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on October 23, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Wild 6-3.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Chuck Fletcher and John Chayka might want to consider a friends and family phone plan.

For the second time in as many days, the Minnesota and Arizona GMs have combined on a trade, as the Coyotes have acquired winger Teemu Pulkkinen from the Wild in exchange for future considerations.

Yesterday, in a much more significant deal, the Wild acquired forwards Ryan White and Martin Hanzal in exchange for a package of draft picks.

Pulkkinen, 25, has been a terrific scorer at the AHL level, but hasn’t seen that form carry over to the NHL. Detroit, the team that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, waived him just prior to the start of this season. He was claimed by the Wild, but only appeared in nine games before getting waived again, and then spent most of the year in Iowa.

True to form, Pulkkinen played very well in the American League, and made this year’s All-Star team.

With the Coyotes, Pulkkinen will get another look at the NHL level, as he’ll join the team in Boston rather than report to their AHL affiliate in Tucson. Chayka has tried to find similar reclamation projects this year — Peter Holland, Alex Burmistrov — and the Coyotes could end up needing bodies should they continue to sell off veterans.

Radim Vrbata could be moved by Wednesday’s deadline, as could captain Shane Doan.

Shattenkirk has to look out for himself

ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Kevin Shattenkirk #22 of the St. Louis Blues skates against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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If the St. Louis Blues can’t turn Kevin Shattenkirk into something significant, don’t expect a warm reception whenever he returns to Scottrade Center as a member of a different team.

The 28-year-old defenseman is a pending unrestricted free agent who’s not expected to re-sign with the Blues. He may be traded prior to Wednesday’s deadline. If not, he’ll likely walk away for nothing this offseason.

Given the above, Shattenkirk understands why many Blues fans were upset that he nixed a trade with Tampa Bay by turning down the Bolts’ contract offer.

That being said, this is a big decision for the high-scoring d-man. He’s in line for a huge payday, and he wants to make the right call for the sake of his future.

“It’s not trying to hold things up or hold anything back from these guys,” Shattenirk told the Post-Dispatch, “but that’s where the tough part of this decision comes, doing what’s best for yourself and what could be your only chance with this opportunity in your entire career.”

The Blues, of course, lost two players to free agency this past summer when David Backes signed with Boston and Troy Brouwer with Calgary.

Earlier this month, after Ken Hitchcock was fired as head coach, GM Doug Armstrong said he felt the Blues had turned into a group of “independent contractors.”

“One of the things I’ve learned about being around St. Louis is the Cardinals,” Armstrong said. “They don’t have independent contractors. When they do, they get rid of them.”

It’s hard now not to see a relation between that comment and Shattenkirk’s situation, given the nixing of the trade with the Lightning apparently came a couple of weeks before Armstrong made the remark.

Trade coming? Devils healthy scratch Quincey

NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 21:  Kyle Quincey #22 of the New Jersey Devils skates during an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators at Prudential Center on February 21, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. Senators won 2-1.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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The writing’s on the wall for Kyle Quincey.

Quincey, the veteran defenseman on a one-year deal in New Jersey, will be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against Montreal.

As is often the case for healthy scratches around the trade deadline, many are assuming this is a safety precaution and precursor to a move. You can count Quincey among those thinking it.

“It’s not done yet, that’s kind of where we’re at right now,” said Quincey, per NorthJersey.com. “Whatever happens, it’s out of my control. I’ve been through it. It’s another day.

“I’ve had a great year with these guys. It’s not over yet but, if it is, I’m very thankful for the opportunity with the boys here.”

Quincey, 31, carries a modest $1.25 million cap hit — that comes off the books this summer — and has been good value for the Devils this year. He’s scored four goals and 12 points through 53 contests, averaging 18:38 TOI per night, and is an ideal defensive depth addition for playoff-bound clubs.

What’s more, Quincey’s appeared in 54 career postseason contests.

Among the teams rumored to be looking at defensive help? Edmonton, and it’s worth noting that head coach Todd McLellan was an assistant in Detroit when Quincey broke in during the 2005-06 campaign, and the pair spent three seasons together.

What’s more, Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli has a history from his Boston days of adding depth d-men at the deadline — Andrej Meszaros in ’14, Wade Redden in ’13, Greg Zanon/Mike Mottau in ’12 and Tomas Kaberle in ’11 — and McLellan did say the club could use another body on the blueline.

Don’t forget Chiarelli has history with Devils GM Ray Shero, as the two pulled off the Taylor Hall-for-Adam Larsson trade last summer.