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Muckler hired as Senators GM

OTTAWA, June 12 (UPI) -- John Muckler, a former coach of the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers and former coach-general manager with the Buffalo Sabres, Wednesday signed a three-year deal as general manager of the Ottawa Senators.

He will be at the NHL Draft in Toronto later this month, but will not assume the GM position until July 1.

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The 68-year-old Muckler replaces Marshall Johnston, who announced last month he would step down as general manager when his contract expires on June 30.

"John has a tremendous hockey mind and his track record speaks for itself," said Senators president and chief executive officer Roy Mlakar. "I'm confident he can pick up where Marshall left off and keep the Senators among the NHL's elite teams."

Muckler was a general manager in Buffalo from 1993-97 and earned NHL executive of the year honors in 1996-97.

He last worked in the NHL as coach of the Rangers from 1997-98 to 1999-2000, but failed to lead them into the playoffs. However, he coached the Edmonton Oilers to their fifth Stanley Cup title in 1990 after serving as an assistant under Glen Sather on the previous four Cup winners.

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Muckler left the Oilers to become director of hockey operations for the Sabres in 1991 and quickly stepped behind the bench and coached them for the next four seasons. Named general manager in 1993, Muckler stepped down as coach in 1995 to focus on front office duties.

Muckler's first order of business in Ottawa will be to decide the fate of a dozen players headed to free agency. Among them are captain Daniel Alfredsson, winger Radek Bonk and defensemen Chris Phillips and Sammy Salo.

This past season, the Senators were within a win of their first-ever trip to the Eastern Conference finals, but dropped the final two games of a best-of-seven series to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Senators coach Jacques Martin recently received a one-year extension through the 2003-04 season.

Martin just completed his sixth full season as Senators coach and Ottawa has made the playoffs each year, the longest current streak of any Canadian team in the NHL.

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