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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 05/20/2011

How the Thrashers’ fate impacts the Capitals

The Globe and Mail reported Thursday night that the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, which plans to move the team to Winnipeg, is completed.

From Stephen Brunt’s story:

Sources confirmed Thursday night that preparations are being made for an announcement Tuesday, confirming the sale and transfer of the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and the MTS Centre arena, which would become the NHL team’s new home.

Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League, is expected to travel to Winnipeg to make the news official.

Once the report surfaced, Bettman, True North officials and Atlanta Thrashers officials all said that the report was inaccurate. Several well-respected hockey reporters said that proclaiming the deal done could be premature, although it’s still widely believed that the Thrashers days in Atlanta are drawing to a close.

If, or when, the Thrashers are relocated to Winnipeg, it will create some degree of a ripple effect across the rest of the league depending on what division realignment plans the NHL elects to put in place.

The Capitals and the rest of the Southeast Division will undoubtedly be impacted, with possibilities from facing a new team that’s been moved into the group or playing six games against the new-look Winnipeg.

--Arguably the simplest way to fit a would-be Winnipeg in the NHL schedule seems to be to leave the franchise in the Southeast for one year and put off substantial realignment for another season. This solution would allow the Phoenix Coyotes’ situation to play out through what is at least one more season in Arizona. Reports from TSN and The Sporting News indicate that a “Southeast” with Winnipeg is more than possible.

This would mean that the Capitals would play Winnipeg six times, three times at Verizon Center and three at MTS Centre in Manitoba — which, according to Google maps, is a whopping 1,560 miles from the Capitals’ headquarters in Arlington.

Teams are accustomed to travel, and the Capitals would likely be able to include at least one jaunt to Manitoba in a larger trip to face Western Conference teams. But the effect of extra mileage on all original Southeast teams, and Winnipeg itself, would be something to keep an eye on for the entire year.

--More long-term solutions could include moving the Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators or Columbus Blue Jackets into the Southeast, with a subsequent shuffle to the Central and Northwest Divisions, the latter of which is expected to become Winnipeg’s home (at some point).

The Red Wings have long lobbied for a move to the East and may have first dibs on that opportunity, but they have publicly stated that they don’t expect to move for 2011-12.

The Predators are the closest geographically to the other Southeast teams, but they are in the Central time zone. Columbus is in the Eastern time zone, but it’s still uncertain if the NHL would simply slide another team into the spot in the Southeast or overhaul the league’s divisional format entirely.

By  |  12:05 PM ET, 05/20/2011

 
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