The NHL officially announced its participation in the Sochi Olympics, released next season’s schedule and announced its new division names. Get the details plus the latest signings and more.

The NHL new division names were finally announced.

The NHL new division names were finally announced.

NHL.COM: The NHL and NHLPA yesterday announced it reached an agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to allow NHL players to participate in the Sochi Olympics.

The league also released its full regular season schedule for 2013-14 and released the names of its four new divisions: Pacific, Central, Atlantic and Metropolitan. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told there was little desire to move away from the geographical descriptors, believing it would be easier for the fans to follow.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I never doubted for a minute the NHL would approve player participation in the Sochi Game. They cannot afford the embarrassment of its Russian stars bolting their NHL teams to play for their country on home ice. As for the division names, I would’ve preferred if they’d named each division after an NHL great (like Howe, Orr, Gretzky or Lemieux), but ultimately it’s not a big deal. The fans will adjust to the new names.

SPORTSNET/NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: Lists the highlights of the upcoming 2013-14 NHL schedule, including the Stars vs Bruins on Nov. 5 (Tyler Seguin’s return to Boston), Flyers vs Lightning on Nov. 27 (Vincent Lecavalier’s return to Tampa Bay), Red Wings vs Senators on Dec. 1 (Daniel Alfredsson’s return to Ottawa), Bruins vs Flames on Dec. 10 (Jarome Iginla’s return to Calgary), the Winter Classic on Jan 1, the Bruins vs Blackhawks on Jan 19 (Stanley Cup Final rematch), the Heritage Classic on March 2 (Senators vs Canucks, plus four other outdoor games, plus the 16-day Olympic break from Feb 9-15.

NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: cited a recent report from InGoal Magazine indicating an NHLPA internal survey and informal approval at a recent meeting for the reduction in the overall height of goalie pads wasn’t specific enough for the NHL, leaving questions over interpretation and implementation of the new restrictions.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hopefully the two sides can reach an agreement on this soon, as the league’s goaltenders will have to order new pads and break them in before the season opens in October. 

CBC.CA: Insurance issues could derail Hockey Canada’s hope for an Olympic orientation camp for the Canadian men’s hockey team in August.

STLTODAY.COM: Blues GM Doug Armstrong said his club is doing everything necessary to re-sign star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, be it a short or long term deal. It’s believed the Pietrangelo camp seeks  close to $7 million per season, while the Blues may be countering with less than $6 million per season.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Perhaps it’s a three-four year deal at $6.25 million per? If they make it an eight-year deal, the Blues can use the variance rules to get a cap hit close to $6 million per or less.

ARIZONA REPUBLIC: The Arizona State Attorney General’s Office has launched an investigation into possible violations of Arizona’s Open Meeting Law by the Glendale City Council during its private recent meetings with the NHL and the prospective buyers of the Phoenix Coyotes. “If violations are found, penalties could include fines of as much as $500 per person, assessment of the state’s attorney fees and removal from public office, according to the Attorney General’s Office.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Well, of course they are! You really didn’t think this saga was over, did you? Like the axe murderer in those cheesy 1980s slasher films, just when you think its dead and buried, it rears its ugly head again. This, however, isn’t likely to affect the new lease agreement with the new owners of the Coyotes. The real nightmare could be in five years time, if those owners decide to bail on the club.

MIAMI HERALD: The Florida Panthers will be bringing back some of their esteemed alumni (like Pavel Bure and John Vanbiesbrouck) as part of their 20th anniversary celebrations.

TSN’s Darren Dreger reports via Twitter: “LA avoids salary arbitration and agrees to terms with Jordan Nolan on a 2-year deal — AAV $700,000.”

NBC SPORTS PRO HOCKEY TALK: The Chicago Blackhawks signed a two-year deal with Drew Leblanc, and one year deals with UFA blueliners Theo Peckham and Michael Kostka. The Phoenix Coyotes signed forward Brandon Yip to a one-year, two-way contract.

CSNNE.COM’s Joe Haggerty reports via Twitter: “Also confirmed with a source that Jordan Caron’s deal is a 1-way contract for 640K for next season. Certainly cost effective.”

TRIBLIVE.COM: The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman Brendan Mikkelson to a one-year, two-way contract.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Zac Dalpe to a one-year, two-way contract.