According to the Sports Business Journal, ESPN and the NHL have begun preliminary discussions that could see the NHL return to ESPN as soon as the 2008-09 season. Comcast owned Versus has exclusive rights to the NHL through 2011, but according to sources, would be willing to waive the clause if they could get something in return.
Several weeks ago Eklund also reported that ESPN was interested in reacquiring the rights to NHL games.
[Sports Business Journal - Look Who's Talking: ESPN, NHL]
[Eklund - ESPN wants Hockey Back]