Rumblings: Latest realignment rumors, shootout decisions, Avery/Stars cap woes

My colleague at TSN in Canada, the venerable Bob McKenzie, is reporting that it appears more likely Detroit will be in the Eastern Conference next season and, if that's the case, the easiest solution is to have the Red Wings do a straight swap with Winnipeg.

It's not written in stone, but it's a popular solution that's gaining favor.

"I'm almost sure that's going to happen," one NHL team executive, who requested anonymity, told ESPN.com on Tuesday regarding the Red Wings' moving into the Southeast Division, where Winnipeg is playing this season.

Another high-placed source told ESPN.com the Winnipeg-Detroit straight swap is "a possibility, but not the only one."

Clubs such as Dallas and Minnesota, for example, are still pushing to leave their respective divisions. The Stars want out of the Pacific Division because they are playing in the wrong time zone against all their divisional opponents. The Wild want out of the Northwest Division. Minnesota and Dallas would love to replace Detroit in the Central Division if the Wings move East.

Stay tuned.

Benched for a shootout?

Eyebrows were raised by some Monday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning used Nate Thompson and Dominic Moore in the shootout against Washington and kept their star players on the bench.

Well, there's ample reason for that. This was not about coach Guy Boucher sending a message to his stars, who struggled during regulation. No, this was about pure statistics. Steven Stamkos (0-for-7), Vincent Lecavalier (0-for-5) and Martin St. Louis (1-for-5) went a combined 1-for-17 in the shootout last season. Thompson has impressed in practice, so he got the nod Monday night against the Capitals, although he completely missed on his attempt.

We suspect Boucher will give his Big Three a shot in the shootout again this season, but don't be surprised on nights when he doesn't.

Stars' payroll floor

Sean Avery's contract is the gift that keeps on giving for the Dallas Stars. We are being facetious, of course. Due to his demotion to the minors, Avery's $1.9 million hit no longer counts against the Stars' cap even though they still have to pay him.

Generally, getting a player who no longer plays for you off your cap is a good thing. Except in this case, it has put the Stars in jeopardy of going under the payroll minimum floor of $48.3 million.

Once Adam Pardy comes off IR in the upcoming week, and the Stars have to make a corresponding roster move to make room for him, it will put the Stars about $300,000 under the payroll minimum.

Because of that, the Stars will need to acquire a player in order to get back above the floor, and Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk has been working the phones this week looking at what's out there. Since he's already carrying eight defensemen, our guess is he is going to try to pick up a forward.

(UPDATE, 8:15 p.m. ET: The Stars acquired winger Eric Nystrom from the Minnesota Wild for future considerations later on Wednesday. Nystrom's $1.4-million cap hit solves the payroll floor issue for the Stars. Interestingly, the Stars could have picked up Nystrom for half his salary on re-entry waivers, but needed his full cap hit, not half of it. That worked out perfectly for Minnesota, which got to unload the whole contract. Once Adam Pardy comes off IR any day now, the Stars will send down another player and, in the end, they'll be about $300,000 above the payroll floor. Nieuwendyk told ESPN.com on Wednesday he was happy to solve his payroll floor issue and also get a player he believes can help the team.)