Five players who could go out on top this season

Ray Bourque, Mark Recchi and Kimmo Timonen are three players in recent history who have ended their careers as Stanley Cup champions. With the post-season near, here are five players who could end their careers by hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2015-16.

The question everyone wanted answered following Sunday’s Super Bowl was if it was the final game of Peyton Manning’s career.

Manning, 39, has been one of the greatest quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen, and while Sunday may not have been the best game of his career, it would be a fitting, storybook ending to his career.

The possibility of Manning retiring on top hits home across professional sports. It’s the way every player wants to go out, but the way few rarely get to. That said, we’ve seen similar retirements in the NHL before. Most famously, there was Ray Bourque’s Stanley Cup-winning goodbye to the league. After him, there was Mark Recchi’s post-Cup retirement announcement, and the pre-Cup announcement from Kimmo Timonen in 2014-15 that, Stanley Cup or not, he was hanging up his skates following the season. Luckily, his career got to end with him triumphantly hoisting the Cup.

One player missing from our list of five who could go out on top is Jaromir Jagr. The 43-year-old has made it clear he’s got at least one more year in him. So, whether the Panthers win it all or come up short, he’s not going out on top if he wins this season. Here are five players without contracts for next season who stand a chance to make their last on-ice moment include the Stanley Cup:

Marek Zidlicky, New York Islanders

Zidlicky, 38, has played more than 800 games in his career and only went deeper than the first round of the post-season once. That one time, though, was all the way to the Stanley Cup final with the New Jersey Devils in 2011-12. Zidlicky was stellar during that playoff run, but the Devils fell short to the powerful Los Angeles Kings, and he wasn’t able to hoist the first Stanley Cup of his career.

Making it to the playoffs with the Islanders isn’t a lock, but Zidlicky, who was a late signing by New York, could contribute on the power play or in a depth role should the club make it. It would be a nice feather in the cap for Zidlicky, who has had a solid NHL career over the past 11 seasons.

Matt Cullen, Pittsburgh Penguins

When this season ends, Cullen will have played nearly 1,300 career games. That’s territory few players ever reach and speaks volumes about Cullen’s ability to find ways to adapt his game to the ever-changing NHL. He has gone from a 20-goal, 40-point scorer to a depth contributor on a deeper team almost seamlessly, and it’s provided him opportunities to win everywhere he’s gone.

Cullen, 39, already has one Stanley Cup to his name from 2005-06 with the Carolina Hurricanes, but the savvy veteran has the chance to add another on a Pittsburgh Penguins club that has heated up since Mike Sullivan took over behind the bench. Cullen won’t be a top contributor, but he’s just the type of depth piece that can help a team win tough playoff games.

Dan Boyle, New York Rangers

Like Cullen, Boyle already has a Stanley Cup ring to his name as he was part of the Tampa Bay Lightning club that held the Cup through the 2004-05 lockout season. Now 39, he’s a far way from the 50-plus point defenseman he once was, but Boyle can still make a difference on the second power play unit. His average ice time has dropped below 20 minutes per game for the first time in 14 years, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still capable of playing an important role.

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Sure, the Rangers haven’t been great this season, but any team with Henrik Lundqvist in goal is capable of going on a run at the drop of a hat. If the Rangers heat up, Boyle could be that sneaky veteran presence on the backend. And if all goes well, he could say his final goodbye to the NHL post-game.

Shane Doan, Arizona Coyotes

The Coyotes don’t currently hold down a post-season spot, but that may not mean much for Doan’s chances at going out on top. With no contract for next season, this might be the best time for Doan to take his shot at heading out of Arizona to try to win a championship. He hasn’t to this point in his career so there’s a distinct possibility that leaving the Coyotes to chase the Stanley Cup as a rental doesn’t interest Doan, but if he tells GM Don Maloney he wants to go, there’s no doubt Maloney would move him.

Doan, 39, has had an excellent career and he has spent all of it with the Coyotes franchise. It would be weird to see him somewhere else, but if Arizona can’t get back into the playoffs, there’s good reason to move Doan along if he’s willing to head elsewhere. And while it may be strange to see him wearing any other jersey, a Stanley Cup would be a fitting end to Doan’s career.

Vincent Lecavalier, Los Angeles Kings

OK, so we’re breaking our own rule here, but hear us out. Lecavalier has already said this is it for him. Could he go back on that? Sure. Will he? Who knows. But as things stand right now, this is Lecavalier’s final season. And if he wants to go out lifting the Stanley Cup for a second time, he couldn’t have found a better landing spot.

The Kings have dominated the Pacific Division this season and while nothing’s a given come playoff time, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who wouldn’t consider Los Angeles the favorite to at least make the Western Conference final representing the Pacific Division. It’s hard to picture anyone stopping the Kings.

Lecavalier’s career was derailed post-buyout in 2013 and he struggled to get it back on track in Philadelphia. Since being traded to Los Angeles, though, Lecavalier has five goals and seven points in 12 games. The reclamation project has worked for the Kings. Should things keep going this way for Lecavalier, he could ride into the sunset as a two time Stanley Cup champion.