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Could relocation of the Arizona Coyotes mean realignment for the NHL’s Western Conference?

NHL Realignment
Zach Laing
23 days ago
Word on the streets Wednesday is that the Arizona Coyotes are on the precipice of being sold and relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah.
It comes after decades of tribulations in the desert with embarrassing ownership stints, an inability to find a true home the league propping the franchise up for far too long.
And according to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, the league and team are working on a sale to Ryan Smith and his entertainment group to relocate the franchise 10 hours north.
Seravalli reported early Wednesday the league had been drafting two schedules for next season: one where the team remained in Arizona, and another where they were in the Beehive State. As the morning turned to afternoon, Servalli added that “significant and meaningful” progress had been made on the sale and relocation, days after Smith posted a survey asking for prospective team names.
A relocation could provide the league with a chance to reformat its divisions. As the astute Travis Yost pointed out on Twitter, the league could be eager to cluster the Colorado Avalanche, Vegas Golden Knights, and the impending Salt Lake City franchise. It would bring the three franchises as close as an hour or two long flight and create, if the ex-Coyotes could become more competitive, some rivalry.
The Golden Knights got plopped into the Pacific Division when they entered the league in 2017-18, and when the Kraken joined in 2021-22, the only realignment saw Arizona join the Central Divison. It would be easy for Salt Lake to remain there, but it’s equally as easy to ponder what divisional realignment could look like.

The Divisions

The graphic at the top of this article highlights how I would realign the division in the Western Conference.
The Oilers would remain in a division with rivals in the Vancouver Canucks, and Calgary Flames, while the Kraken remained, too. It would see the Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues join, creating what I would call the North Division.
By doing so, the NHL would allow geographical rivalries to remain. The northwestern-most clubs would fight for territory as they always have, and the Jets would be introduced into the mix, too. Teams like the Jets, Wild, Blackhawks and Blues, all of whom are in the current central division, would remain geographical rivals, too.
When the Oilers and Jets joined the NHL when it expanded to 21-teams back in 1979, they played out of the Smythe Division which included a number of teams this North Division would hold: the Oilers, Blackhawks, Blues, Canucks and Jets. Division realignment two years later would change this, but it wouldn’t be without precedent for these clubs to be battling against each other.
The southwestern-most clubs would remain in similar area, too, with the San Jose Sharks, LA Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche all being within hours reach. The Dallas Stars and Nashville Predators, while a bit further east, would make for the most inter-division travel these clubs see. This is a little trickier to figure out given a bit more travel involved, but I think there’s something close here, at the very least.
What do you think of what these divisions could look like?

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

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