The NHL is moving back to ESPN. . . According to SportsNet Canada, which cited multiple league and industry sources, the National Hockey League and the sports media giant are close to a seven-year deal. ESPN would split the national TV deal with an unidentified media company, which could still be NBC. . . The NHLs current deal with NBC, which pays the league $200 million annually for exclusive national TV rights, ends after this season. NBC appears to revamping some of its sports coverage after its announcement that the NBC Sports Network, is being shut down later this year. Regional networks like NBC Sports Boston will not be affected. . ESPN and its unidentified partner would split the Stanley Cup Finals coverage. . . From SportsNet. There was no confirmation from the NHL on an agreement that is expected to see ESPN get the rights to broadcast four Stanley Cup Finals between 2022 and 2028, plus streaming rights for Disney. Financial terms of the deal werent immediately available, nor was it clear which other media company would split the package with ESPN. . . According to Front Office Sports in October, theres been interest in NHL rights from several companies. . . Fox Sports, inventor of the glowing puck in the mid-1990s, may also be interested, sources said. CBS Sports, the first U. S. network to broadcast Canadas ancestral sport, could also take part in the bidding. Meanwhile, tech giants such as Amazon could be interested in the NHLs digital rights as they expand into sports. . . The NHL hasnt been on ESPN since 2003. The leagues drop in exposure following that departure spoke to power ESPN has on the American sports landscape. In addition to not having games on the network, NHL Tonight, the highlight show was discontinued. Highlights from the league on SportsCenter, which was more influential at that time, were diminished both in frequency and placement. . The league got less coverage and less desirable placement on ESPN. com as well. . . Fans were forced to search for nationally televised broadcasts on the Outdoor Life Network and Versus before NBC took over national coverage. The NHL began to build momentum with NBC increasing viewers until a record 9 million people watched the St. Louis Blues Game 7 win over the Bruins in 2019 Stanley Cup Final.