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Six NHL teams keeping an eye on their 2013-14 Stanley Cup window

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Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks faces off against Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins

With young, talented cores, the Blackhawks and Penguins remain solid Cup contenders this season. (Getty Images)

By Allan Muir

It’s a funny thing about windows. Sometimes you can’t tell if they’re open or not until you pass through . . . or run smack into them.

That’s usually the way it plays out as teams work to establish themselves as legitimate challengers for the Stanley Cup. Those years spent carefully assembling the pieces require more than vision. They hinge on perfect timing. Because just when everything seems to be place, injuries can deplete the depth or the scoring dries up or the chemistry experiment fizzles. It doesn’t take much to derail the dream.

Every team aspires to contention, but few teams are ever actually in the sweet spot where everything comes together and puts them directly in the hunt. The defending champion Blackhawks are there now. So are the Bruins and the Kings, and perennial contenders like the Red Wings and Penguins, too.

Eastern Conference Power Rankings | Western Conference | Kane, Crosby on SI preview covers

And then there are the teams for which opportunity is either just over the horizon . . . or just slipping from their grasp. For them, the window of opportunity is slowly opening or closing right in front of their eyes.

Here’s a look at three clubs that are rounding into Cup-contending form this season, and three that may have passed their best-by date.

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  • Published On Sep 25, 2013
  • Must-see video: Bobby Ryan’s humbling day on streets of Ottawa

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    By Allan Muir

    Bobby Ryan will never replace Daniel Alfredsson in the hearts and minds of Ottawa’s devoted fans, but that’s okay. He’s doing a nice job so far of carving out a place all for himself.

    From his early excitement in the wake of his trade to the Senators to his willingness to fly into town early for promotional interviews, he’s proving to be exactly the sort of guy who can help shape a new identity for the team.

    Well, as soon as he shapes an identity for himself, anyway.

    This week, Ryan decided to poke a little fun at his relative anonymity in Canada’s capital by conducting man-on-the street interviews. The topic: what do Sens fans think of Bobby Ryan?

    The bit produces completely expected results. They may love their hockey in Ottawa, but as far as “the American kid” goes . . . well, watch the video and see for yourself how it all plays out.


  • Published On Sep 10, 2013
  • Did Daniel Alfredsson help Ottawa Senators circumvent the salary cap?

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    Daniel Alfredsson left the Ottawa Senators to sign with the Detroit Red Wings

    Daniel Alfredsson was quite a bargain during his final season in Ottawa. (Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Everyone was hoping that Daniel Alfredsson would provide some fireworks at his Farewell to Ottawa press conference this morning, but no one expected a bombshell quite like this.

    While describing the process that led to his decision to leave the Senators for the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent this summer, Alfredsson appears to have revealed that he and his former team conspired to circumvent the salary cap.

    “When I did my last contract, ending in the 2012 season, I was asked to help the team manage the salary cap by adding on an extra year to my contract,” he said. “I agreed. Each side fully expected I would retire and not play the 2012-13 season.”

    Whoops.

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  • Published On Aug 15, 2013
  • Canucks to host Senators outdoors (maybe) in 2014 Heritage Classic

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    Vancouver's BC Place will host the NHL's 2014 Heritage Classic

    BC Place’s retractable roof could come in handy for hockey in rainy Vancouver. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    The long rumored return of the Heritage Classic is now official.

    The NHL announced Wednesday morning that the Vancouver Canucks will host the Ottawa Senators at BC Place on Sunday, March 24, at 2 p.m.

    With this announcement, all six of the league’s 2014 outdoor games have been confirmed. Well, all six games that could be played outdoors.

    The league’s press release pointed out this will be the first game played in a facility with a retractable roof, and that’s probably a point worth remembering. BC Place, best known for hosting the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, had the roof installed after the Games because Vancouver tends to get more than its share of rain. A downpour led the league to delay the start of the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh by six hours, and while playing under the lights made for a great visual, that late start wreaked havoc on the NHL’s broadcast partners. It’s nice to have the roof option in the back pocket, then.

    Photos: NHL’s outdoor games through the years

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  • Published On Jul 10, 2013
  • Ottawa Senators lose Daniel Alfredsson, trade with Ducks for Bobby Ryan

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    Bobby Ryan was traded to the Ottawa Senators by the Anaheim Ducks.

    Playing for the Senators should boost Bobby Ryan’s goal output to a career high. (Dave Reginek/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    There’s no replacing Daniel Alfredsson, either on the ice or in the hearts of Ottawa’s devoted fans.

    But after losing the face of the franchise in a surprise free agency defection to Detroit, Senators GM Bryan Murray understood that he couldn’t be paralyzed by that sense of futility.

    So he took a bold step forward into that Alfie-less future, trading Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a 2014 first rounder to the Anaheim Ducks for Bobby Ryan.

    Surprisingly, Murray revealed in an afternoon press conference he’d been in discussions to acquire Ryan earlier in the week and had made Alfredsson aware of the potential to add the young star to the Ottawa roster. It wasn’t enough to convince the captain to stay.

    MUIR: Alfredsson stuns Sens | Horton scores big with Jackets | Clarkson, Clowe break  bank

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  • Published On Jul 05, 2013
  • NHL free agents: Daniel Alfredsson leaves Ottawa for Detroit

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    Daniel Alfredsson is leaving the Ottawa Senators as a free agent.

    Daniel Alfredsson spent 17 seasons with the Sens, who took him in the sixth round of the 1994 NHL Draft. (Getty)

    By Allan Muir

    Daniel Alfredsson ended last season as the NHL’s longest serving captain.

    That streak, apparently, is over.

    Multiple reports confirm the veteran is leaving the Ottawa Senators after 17 seasons to pursue his options in free agency.

    Alfredsson is the most beloved player in Senators history, and holds a number of franchise records including games played (1,178), goals (426), assists (682), and points (1,108). He scored 10 goals and 36 points last season, proving there’s still some life in his 40-year-old legs.

    FREE AGENT TRACKER: Who’s available, who signed

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  • Published On Jul 05, 2013
  • Stars acquire rights to Sergei Gonchar from Ottawa for draft pick

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    Sergei Gonchar made $5.5 million with the Sens in 2013, and becomes a free agent on July 5. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    Fans of the Dallas Stars have been waiting to see how new GM Jim Nill would make his mark on the team.

    They probably weren’t expecting a trade for a 39-year-old defenseman to be his first move.

    The Stars today acquired the rights to Sergei Gonchar from the Ottawa Senators for a conditional sixth-round pick. It’s believed that the condition is that he signs with the team.

    If that’s the case, this is a no-risk move for the Stars. Gonchar, who made $5.5 million with the Sens in 2013, becomes a free agent July 5. He’s been in talks with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL, and it’s a safe bet they’d be willing to pay him a lot more than Dallas. But it’s thought that playing at home is a back-up plan and he’d prefer to play in North America. The Stars are willing to give him two years, but nowhere near the $7 million per he’s reportedly by offered by Magnitogorsk. So, if he’s willing to sign for considerably less, he’ll get the chance to finish off his career in the NHL.

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  • Published On Jun 07, 2013
  • NHL playoffs: Penguins dump Senators, advance to Eastern Conference Finals

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    James Neal Hat Trick

    James Neal (center) scored a hat trick in the Penguins’ 6-2 Game 5 win. (Joe Sargent/Getty Images)

    By Sarah Kwak

    When the Senators had a parade of players hauled on to the injured reserve, they were expected to sink. When they dropped five in a row in early April, people thought their postseason hopes were gone. And yet Ottawa found ways to win games, make it to the playoffs, make it past the first round.

    Well, after a season of exceeding expectations and proving doubters wrong, Ottawa finally reached the end of its line; after 58 games, the Senators just could not muster any more of their magic this year, and their surprisingly excellent season ended Friday night as they fell to Pittsburgh, 6-2, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

    Captain Daniel Alfredsson’s remarks after Game 4 — he had intimated that the end was imminent for his team, that he didn’t think it was likely his Senators could come back — turned out to be spot on. “With their depth and power play right now, you know, it doesn’t look too good,” Alfredsson said.

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  • Published On May 24, 2013
  • NHL playoffs: Staying alive in Game 5 tall order for Senators vs. Penguins

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    By Allan Muir

    We know this much about the Ottawa Senators. Placed on a slab and fitted for a toe tag early this season after Jason Spezza, Craig Anderson and Erik Karlsson were dispatched to the long-term IR, this team hopped off and danced a jig on its own grave just to prove everyone wrong. So maybe writing the Sens’ obituary before they have a chance to play Game 5 in Pittsburgh tonight is a bit foolish.

    Granted, Daniel Alfredsson, the team’s captain, doesn’t like Ottawa’s long-term chances for survival, but that doesn’t mean they won’t live to fight at least one more day.

    “If you ask anyone and they looked at our series, I don’t think there’s too many people who would have pick us right now. That’s what I meant,” Alfredsson said by way of explaining his post-Game 4 quote that the Sens probably wouldn’t win the series. “We have an opportunity and we’re still in the playoffs. We have always responded when we were up against the wall and I expect us to do the same thing [in Game 5] and give ourselves a chance to win a game and come back [to Ottawa for Game 6].”

    GAME 4: Muir’s take | Recap | Boxscore Highlights | Complete postseason schedule

    Whether they come into the contest as never-say-die warriors, or with the easy calm of a team that has nothing to lose, the Senators still face long odds of extending the series against a Pittsburgh squad that proved it could keep its foot on the gas in Wednesday’s 7-3 thumping.

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  • Published On May 24, 2013
  • NHL playoffs: Penguins romp over Senators 7-3, take 3-1 series lead

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    Senators goalie Craig Anderson.

    Senators goalie Craig Anderson finally cracked against the Penguins in Game 4. (Jana Chytilova/Getty Images)

    By Allan Muir

    The Ottawa Senators finally proved they knew how to take a lead. They just didn’t know how to hold the lead.

    That might sound like an old Seinfeld bit, but no one in Ottawa was laughing.

    After Milan Michalek and Kyle Turris staked the Sens to a 2-1 edge during an entertaining first period, the Pittsburgh Penguins roared back with six unanswered goals on the way to a 7-3 win and commanding 3-1 series lead.

    Here are some observations from the pivotal Game 4:

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  • Published On May 23, 2013


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