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NHL return to play reports: Jan. 13 season start, April 12 trade deadline

Teams to play regular season within divisions, playoffs slightly altered

PITTSBURGH - MAY 04: The NHL logo behind the net during the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers prior to game five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 4, 2008 at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH - MAY 04: The NHL logo behind the net during the game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers prior to game five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2008 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 4, 2008 at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) (2008 Getty Images)

Reports on the NHL’s return to play in January are rolling out this weekend.

UPDATE: NHL will play 56-game season starting Jan. 13

Insider Pierre LeBrun reports the season will start Jan. 13 (as expected) with a trade deadline scheduled for April 12. The NHL’s regular season -- expected to be cut short to just 56 games -- will end May 8.

The expansion draft (Seattle’s first season in the league is 2021-22) will be held July 21. Free agency will get going July 28.

LeBrun added the latest the Stanley Cup final round would be held is July 15 -- it won’t go later than that.

Realigned divisions, playoff seeding altered

The divisions are realigning due to the cross-border travel ban between Canada and the United States. That means there will be one division with all seven Canadian teams and three divisions with the rest of the U.S. teams. Those three divisions will be realigned based on geography.

The divisions are expected to look like this:

Atlantic: Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington

Central: Carolina, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago, Florida, Nashville, Tampa

Pacific: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas

Canada: All seven Canadian teams

The teams have shifted a few times in the American divisions over the past few weeks, but this appears to be the final settlement.

Teams will play within their divisions with the top four in each division making the playoffs. That is a change from the top three making the playoffs with two wild card spots in each conference scenario that we have become accustomed to since 2013.

Read more: NHL eyes division play only; Sharks to Arizona


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