The NHL players union has approved an NHL realignment plan scheduled for the 2013-2014 season.
“After discussions with the Executive Board, the NHLPA has given consent to realignment, to be re-evaluated following the 2014-15 season,” NHLPA Executive Director Don Fehr said through a statement.
The union's approval was the only obstacle for the new divisional realignment that will also include a new playoff format. In 2012, the NHLPA rejected a realignment plan unilaterally created by the NHL.
The NHL must now take the proposal to its Board of Governors for a vote. If approved, the new plan will go into effect starting with the 2013-14 season.
"The NHL Players' Association confirmed to us today that it has consented to a revised Plan for Realignment, effective for the 2013-14 season," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a statement. "Our next step will be to bring the proposed Plan for Realignment to the NHL Board of Governors for its consideration. We will update the status of the process as future developments warrant."
The realignment plan will reduce the number of divisions from six to four:
Atlantic: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington
Central: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto
Mid-West: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis and Winnipeg
Pacific: Anaheim, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Jose and Vancouver The new playoff plan will also include wild-card teams and divisional playoffs rather than seeding based on conference finish during the regular season. The top three teams in each division would earn playoff berths plus four wild cards. The division winner with the most regular-season points would face the lowest-seeded wild card in the first round.