NHL sets December realignment deadline

The NHL Board of Governors on Tuesday set a December deadline to complete the league’s conference realignment for the 2012-13 season.

The NHL is tasked with shuffling its current alignment to allow the newly re-established Winnipeg Jets franchise to compete in the Western Conference following the upcoming season.

The Jets — formerly the Atlanta Thrashers — will continue competing in the Southeast Division of the Eastern Conference during the 2011-12 season as part of an agreement made with the league upon the sale of the team in May.

"Obviously we have to make arrangements to move Winnipeg west, and we had an opportunity to explore the issues," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com. "No conclusions were reached, but it’s something I’m hopeful we can resolve at the December meeting."

The Board of Governors will attempt to complete the realignment by December, allowing ample time to finalize the 2012-13 schedule.

But the process may not be as simple as plugging Winnipeg in the West in exchange for one team’s move to the East. The Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets are all interested in shifting over to the Eastern Conference, according to NHL.com.

"Selfishly we want to move to the East, but maybe there are scenarios where we would be OK with staying where we are, or maybe there is a bigger realignment out there that we would favor," Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson said.

A complete overhaul of the league’s current alignment also could include creating a four-conference system that would lead to alterations of the playoff format, according to the report.