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Thursday, September 22, 2011
LeBrun's rumblings: Dallas in Central or Southeast? Sharks trade?

By Pierre LeBrun

Owners and team executives will continue to send feedback to the NHL over the next few months regarding the contentious issue of realignment.

Many of them made their points clear at this week's board of governors meeting.

One thing is clear: while the league espoused the idea of going from six to four divisions (or conferences as it would have called them), the consensus in the room Tuesday was that governors did not have an appetite for that. So, unless there's a drastic change of heart, the four-division realignment is likely dead. The governors want to keep it at six divisions. Within that framework, the league needs to find a solution as it readies for Winnipeg's move from East to West next season.

The league presented about 15 different realignment alternatives Tuesday; those will be cut down to 2-3 in time for a final vote at the December BOG meetings.

Some nuggets we found out about from Tuesday's meeting:

• Dallas made it clear it wants to move out of the Pacific Division, citing travel and the fact it's the only team in the division not in the Pacific time zone. The Stars, who are in the Central time zone, would like to move into the Central or Southeast Division. One source told ESPN.com on Thursday the Stars won't let this go easily.

• One of the 15 alternatives put forth by the NHL to the governors saw Toronto and Winnipeg move to the Northwest Division with Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton; under that scenario Detroit would replace Toronto in Northeast with Montreal, Boston, Buffalo and Ottawa. But it doesn't appear it's an option that has much support among the governors at this point.

• No matter what the league comes up with, sticking with the six-division format will ensure some clubs won't be happy. It would have been easier from a geographical standpoint to accommodate teams in a four-division set-up, but as we said above, that wasn't supported.

Lombardi seeks advice from Red Sox's Epstein

When the Los Angeles Kings opened training camp without their star blueliner Drew Doughty last Friday, GM Dean Lombardi made a very interesting phone call. He reached out to Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein to pick his brain.

"I was trying to understand how a key guy like [Dustin] Pedroia, who's the MVP of their team, got signed," Lombardi told ESPN.com this week. "I found it pretty amazing that here was a guy at a very young age committed to his organization for a long period when everybody around him was telling him he could have made a lot more. I was interested in the whole dynamic of what the Red Sox had that was appealing to Pedroia and made him do that [take less money to stay in Boston]. ...

"I wanted to hear his take in terms of what he thought was going through Pedroia's head, so that hopefully we can offer our players those type of things that are appealing where you have MVP-type players who say, 'You know, I want to be here.' You can tell [Epstein] is a very sharp guy and found his insight very interesting."

Sharks trade?

The San Jose Sharks have 10 players battling for three jobs in the bottom six forward group. The Sharks like to give players within their organization a shot at jobs, but they're also trying to win the Stanley Cup. If they don't like the production from their bottom six early in the season, don't be surprised if GM Doug Wilson works the phone to acquire more experience.

Scott Niedermayer

We ran into him Tuesday night at the Honda Center. He's going to do some work again this season with Ducks prospects in Syracuse (AHL) and young players within the organization. But he said it's still not a full-time gig. He remains undecided about his future in that regard.

Mark Bell

It is nice to see Bell back trying to make a go of it in the NHL. The Ducks are giving him a shot to make the team at camp after signing him to a one-year, two-way deal which pays him $575,000 in the NHL and $105,000 in the AHL.

"I wanted to give this one last shot, Bell, who played in the Swiss League the past two seasons, told ESPN.com.

Jamie Benn

Center Jamie Benn of the Stars is one of the great young stars in this league, and some believe he's on his way to super-stardom. He's entering the final year of his entry-level contract. The Stars contacted his agent, Richard Evans, a few days ago to gauge whether there was interest in commencing contract talks on an extension.

This will be an interesting one to monitor given his rising stock. The sooner the Stars can get him signed, the better. No doubt the Stars will look at Logan Couture's recent extension (two years and $5.7 million) and see a nice comparable. But the Benn camp could easily point to the six-year, $33 million extension recently signed by John Tavares as a nice model.