NEW YORK - After weeks of tough negotiations, the NHL and its players reached a deal with the International Ice Hockey Federation on Friday to put the season on hold again so the game's biggest stars can compete next year in the Sochi Olympics.

Putting a stop to another season one year after the damaging lockout created a shortened, 48-game campaign was hardly an optimal plan for the NHL. But an agreement was made to allow the top players to take part in the Olympics for the fifth straight time.

"Our outstanding athletes take tremendous pride in representing their homelands on the global stage," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in a joint announcement with the players' association. "The decision to participate in the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi was in many ways a difficult one, but one that we know will be well received by our players and, most importantly, by the vast majority of our fans and sports fans everywhere."

NHL players first went to the Olympics for the 1998 Nagano Games. Now they will be available to the 12 national teams that will comprise the hockey tournament Feb. 12-23. More than 120 NHL players are expected to compete in Sochi while the league takes a break for 2 1/2 weeks, Feb. 9-26.

"You find out pretty quickly that an Olympic-year schedule is a little more condensed and a little more intense than a typical year," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said during a conference call.

NHL releases 2013-14 schedule

NEW YORK - The NHL released its schedule Friday that features realignment and a slew of new division names and rivals.

Opening night Oct. 1 will feature the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks hosting Washington. The regular season concludes April 13, with the playoffs beginning three days later.

Phoenix opens Oct. 3 with a home game against the Rangers. See Coyotes schedule at left.

How the new divisions look:

• The Metropolitan: Washington, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey, N.Y. Rangers, N.Y. Islanders, Carolina and Columbus.

• The Atlantic: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Buffalo, Detroit, Boston, Florida and Tampa Bay.

• The Central: Winnipeg, Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville and St. Louis.

• The Pacific: Phoenix, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim.

Coyotes sign forward Yip

GLENDALE - The Coyotes signed forward Brandon Yip to a one-year contract, the team announced Friday.

Yip, 28, played 34 games for Nashville, scoring three goals with five assists. In parts of four NHL seasons with Nashville and Colorado, he has played in 172 games, with 29 goals and 27 assists. He has also three goals and three assists in 16 playoff games.