Friday, June 29, 2012

Top 10 NHL Free Agents 2012

By Jason Klau

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Every year, for NHL fans across the globe, July 1 marks a very special day: D-Klau's birthday. And, just as celebratory, said date as well kicks off the bidding war that is NHL Free Agency, as hockey fans such as myself are every year glued to their computer screens, constantly refreshing TSN, waiting to see the next big shift in NHL talent.

Officially set to start at noon, there are a number of teams that will be looking to make moves. The Pittsburgh Penguins made big news at the Draft, moving Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek in seperate trades, clearing enough space to go hard after at least one top contractee to skate alongside Sid the Kid aka the $100 Million Man, while the Detroit Red Wings will look to replace -- pending possibility -- Niklas Lidstrom.

The NHL is also eagerly awaiting the moves of two star players: Rick Nash has been linked to trade rumors since forever now, and the Columbus Blue Jackets are not going to settle for anything less than most of King Midas' gold. Credit them for remaining firm on what they think he's worth, but that could get them into trouble. They should be careful to not lose Ol' Rick for nothing, and where he goes has a lot to do with what free agents land where. The other star in the mix is Roberto Luongo, who has said he wants to go back to the Florida Panthers where he started his career. Florida could certainly use him, but there are other teams out there with goalie spots open. Fresh off kissing the Cup, Dustin Penner is also probably going to be available. The power forward could be just what the Maple Leafs are looking for.

So, with all that juicy content in mind, in no particular order, here are some of the top free agents available, and what teams I suspect will be bidding for them:

1) The biggest fish in the sea this year is, without a doubt, Zach Parise.

The New Jersey Devils franchise forward is coming off of a run to the Stanley Cup Finals, one that nobody thought possible for the last professional team in New Jersey worth ticketed admission (Sorry, Newark Bears tickets solicitors). Rumors earlier in the year had linked Parise to the New York Rangers, in what seemed like a perfect on-ice fit. Parise though, quickly shot down those rumors, saying there is "no way" he'll sign with the Blue Shirts. I'll take his word for it.

For more info on Parise's sitch, check out The Parise Predicament.

Parise has only failed to score 30 goals in two seasons: his rookie year and in 2010 when he only played 13 games. He will be a welcome addition, or return, wherever he signs. Re-signing to New Jersey is certainly a possibility, although I expect Pittsburgh to go hard after him. Detroit has been linked to him as well. The Minnesota Wild, Zach's home-state team, also have a shot. My pick is Pittsburgh.

2) For those teams looking for an upgrade on D instead, the pack is led by Ryan Suter.

A fitting name, the Nashville Predators star is ready to test the open market, and it won't be to stay in Tennessee. Suter can block shots, he can hit, he can score a bit and definitely set up goals. He is better than a jack of all trades, and there isn't a team in the NHL that wouldn't take him right now. With that said, it's going to cost a pretty penny to get him. Detroit should be the leading contender to get him. The Penguins should be looking to upgrade on D and if the Rangers find room for him, they'll definitely look to add to their defensive depth. The Philadelphia Flyers also are going to go after him. My pick is Detroit.

3) Somebody is going to miss out on Parise. Somebody else isn't going to trade for Rick Nash. For the team that needs an offensive star, Alexander Semin might be the way to go.

People have questioned his effort before, but nobody has questioned his natural talent. He just has it. He's a former 40 goal scorer, but more realistically a 25-30 goal scorer. Under the right circumstances, Semin will be a major impact wherever he goes. I'd look for the Rangers to try and grab him while star forward Marian Gaborik misses significant time recovering from shoulder surgery. Colorado also has cap space to use and maybe former Capitals goalie and current Av, Semyon Varlamov can do some recruiting. I think the WIld will inevitably miss out on Parise, and Semin may be the next option for them. My pick is Minnesota.

4) Shane Doan, a Coyote for life, is set to hit the open market.

This guy is the definition of a leader. On top of wearing a C on his jersey, he's also a consistent 20 goal scorer and has a knack for setting up his teammates as well. He's 35 going on 36, and hasn't really slowed down, but still without a Cup ring, so, maybe, for his own career's sake, he'll look to go elsewhere. Still, it's really hard to see him leaving Phoenix. I'll have my money on the Desert Doggies giving him the contract he certainly deserves. The Rangers may look to add him, as he'd bring the veteran presence they could have used in the 2012 playoffs. If he does leave the desert, I'd think New York would be where he ends up on a 2-year deal.

5) Jaromir Jagr came back to the NHL and many were shocked when he went to Philadelphia.

But shock factor is what the Czech does best (besides back-handers).

And who could pass up the chance to play on a line with a talent like Claude Giroux? Well, for one year at least. Now it looks like he'll test the open market again. At 40 years old, Jagr came back to prove he still had it, and he did just that. I could see him going back to Pittsburgh this time if they give him an offer, and maybe after the Parise situation settles, if the Pens are still looking for another offensive threat, Jagr could be an option. They won't have to break the bank on him, and he would fit well with the scorers they have. Look for Philly to try and retain him as well. I'll refrain from making an official pick, because frankly, I have no idea.

6) Jason Garrison is the primary offensive defenseman on the market this year.

While not quite what Sheldon Souray was to Montreal so many years ago, Garrison is no slouch. He also really came out of nowhere. After making not much more than league minimum last season, Garrison is looking to cash in. What he's looking for though, might be too much for a Florida Panthers team that isn't exactly in the best situation financially. Although Garrison is coming off of the only successful season in his brief career, the 28-year-old will draw some attention, especially from teams looking to boost their power play with a legit threat from the blueline. While I think, for his career, it'd be best to stay in Florida, The Dallas Stars currently have the worst Power Play in the league and a new owner who is looking to spend. Texas is definitely an option.

7) Matt Carle of the Philadelphia Flyers is also a perfect guy for any team's power play.

In their efforts to sign Ryan Suter, the Flyers might run out of time to keep Matt Carle. He doesn't have the big booming shot, but he's the guy who'll make that pass. He'll find the open man and make plays happen. He's also very solid defensively. I don't have the slightest clue why the Flyers are letting him go, but it scares me, thinking about Matt Carle, making passes to Zdeno Chara in Boston. The Bruins will definitely be looking to improve their Power Play and Carle would be perfect for them. They'll be clashin' pints in Harvard Square to the tune of Matt Carle come 2013. Boston Bruins all the way on this one.

8) P.A. Parenteau is a great story.

The journeyman who found a comfortable spot on Long Island has really broken out. He couldn't crack the Anaheim Ducks, had a cup of coffee with the Chicago Black Hawks and with the Rangers, but in two seasons with the Islanders, he has scored 120 points. He was given a shot to play top line minutes, with talented players like John Tavares and Matt Moulson, and he made the most of that opportunity. Now, he he's looking to earn some bigger bucks. The Islanders definitely want to keep him, because frankly, he fits well there. For whatever reason, what he could not do for all the other organizations he played on, he could do in the Nassau Coliseum. But if they can't afford him, there are certainly going to be other teams looking to sign him. Imagine Detroit putting him next to Pavel Datsyuk, scary right? Also, if Florida can't figure out a contract with restricted free agent Kris Versteeg, P.A. might be a good replacement. My bet though, is that he remains on L.I.

P.A.'s gunna stay. P.A., is here to play.

9) The ageless Ray Whitney, at 40 years old, is not yet ready to hang up the skates.

Not only has he not slowed down, he's improved. An impressive 77 points last season can only bode well for his contract situation, wherever he ends up. The only knock on his game is in the playoffs, his motor did begin to sputter, especially against the Kings, where he was held to only one assist. In a series where the Coyotes needed every bit of offense they could find, Whitney didn't have the durability to keep going. I fully expect him to return to the desert though. If he doesn't, former teams like the Panthers or the Carolina Hurricanes, with whom he raised a Cup, would be good spots for him, and they'll definitely look at him as an option.

10) Jiri Hudler is coming off of a career year in Detroit.

He's in his prime and he can be a star in this League. Detroit is definitely going to look at retaining him, but potentially signing a bigger name like Parise might halt that. If he does leave, Minnesota needs some offensive help. They were the best team in the League at one point last season. When Mikko Koivu went down with an injury, their season went down as well, going from first in L the to missing the playoffs by a whopping 14 points. I'll bet he stays in Motown but if he goes anywhere else, Minnesota is certainly an option.

What's a hockey post without a fist pump? Nothing, bro. NOTHING.

Some Honor-a-bro Mentions you also might want to remember as free agency approaches:

Kristian Huselius may want to look for a better team instead of staying in Columbus.

Olli Jokinen has had success in Calgary, but they are looking to rebuild.

Veteran Fillip Kuba mentored Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson in Ottawa. While he should stay, there will be teams looking for him after what was certainly a rebound year.

Rangers grit forward Brandon Prust has indicated that although he wants to stay in New York, he'll test the market. The fighting and penalty-killing energy he brings is something any team will look for.

Michal Rozsival had a re-emergence in the desert but the cheap hit he took from L.A. Kings captain Dustin Brown at the end of the Conference Finals has left his knees in shambles. If he is on a road to recovery, he could be a good addition to a few teams.

Dustin Penner is an obvious choice for any team needing a power forward after an impressive playoffs. Look for Toronto and for the Rangers to take a shot at him.

They guys I've listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. The NHL Free Agent frenzy is one of the most exciting times of the year (or at least that's what us hockey fans tell ourselves once the ice has melted and summer is in full swing) as teams battle it out with their dollars to get their squads ready for the upcoming year. July 1 is the day that teams are made, all in the pursuit of the good Lord Stanley's Cup.

Good ... Hunting NHL teams. Go get 'em! I'll be watching...via TSN.

Oh, and by the way, Erin Andrews is officially a free agent come July 1 as well, so yeah, look out for that.

1 comment:

  1. Erin Andrews to the Devils could work wonders.