(AP/ABC7) — NHL officials have approved a radical realignment plan that will give the league four conferences instead of six divisions.
The Board of Governors approved the move Monday at the first day of their meeting. The realignment won't be implemented until NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman discusses the new plan with the NHL Players' Association.
Thanks to the moves, the Washington Capitals will be placed in a conference with the Carolina Hurricanes, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Washington currently competes in the Southeast Division with the Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Winnipeg Jets.
The league needed to make changes to accommodate Atlanta's move to Winnipeg this past summer. They could have switched one team from the Western Conference with the Jets but opted for a more dramatic plan.
Six divisions to four conferences
There will be two conferences with eight teams and two with seven teams instead of the current format of six five-team divisions. Teams will play five or six intraconference games and home-and-home series with nonconference teams.
The top four teams in each conference will play each other in the first two rounds of the playoffs, according to the new plan, The four conference champions will then compete for the Stanley Cup.
Capitals pair up with old rivals
The four conference, which remain unnamed as of now, harken to the 1980s and early 1990s, when teams competed in the Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe Divisions.
During that time, the Capitals played in the Patrick with the Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers and Penguins.
The league moved away from the four division format in 1998, when the league began a new round of expansion.