NHL Free Agency 2012: Top 25 Players Available and Where They'll All End Up

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IMarch 12, 2012

NHL Free Agency 2012: Top 25 Players Available and Where They'll All End Up

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    Players are battling for their teams' playoff position right now, but many are also fighting for dollar signs this summer. There's a strong free agent class coming up this summer that, coupled with a new collective bargaining agreement, could change the balance of power in the National Hockey League quickly.

    What follows is a look at the top 25 unrestricted free agents and where they might wind up this summer. We limited the list to unrestricted free agents because there are too many dynamics with restricted free agents, many of whom could/will be impacted by the new CBA, to consider their potential futures.

25. Dustin Penner

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    New Home: Dallas

    Penner's stock has almost disappeared since being dealt to LA, but there is a case study in play right now that supports the idea of Penner landing a short-term deal with the Stars.

    This year, Dallas took a shot on another "worthless" veteran in Sheldon Souray, who has actually played fairly well for the Stars. If Dallas has a mind to look for another veteran who wants/needs to give his career a jumpstart, Penner might be their man.

24. Ray Emery

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    New Home: Toronto

    The Leafs have had goaltending issues for longer than most fans in Toronto care to remember, and while Brian Burke might tell microphones that he can live with Jonas Gustavsson, odds are he'll be looking for an upgrade this summer.

    Emery has played well down the stretch for Anaheim and now taken the top spot on Chicago's depth chart away from Corey Crawford. He might be an affordable multi-year deal for Burke with a lot of upside.

23. Chris Kelly

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    New Home: Detroit

    Kelly's a physical forward with championship experience who might find a role in the void left when Tomas Holmstrom retires in Detroit.

    The Red Wings will have plenty of cap space to fill what might be significant holes this summer, but adding a gritty veteran like Kelly might make sense.

22. Jamal Mayers

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    New Home: Chicago

    Mayers has been the only free agent skater added by GM Stan Bowman from the summer of 2011 that's worked out well—or at all. He has been the ideal fourth-line center all season for Chicago, and the best bet is that he'll get an invitation to return to the Windy City this summer.

21. Johan Hedberg

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    New Home: Chicago

    Hedberg is an intriguing player heading into this summer. There are a number of hot names that are hitting restricted free agency, specifically Cory Schneider, that will steal most of the headlines.

    But there aren't many unrestricted free agent goaltenders that could be a Band-Aid for teams looking to buy time for a prospect to mature or that simply don't want to commit to a long-term deal.

    Odds are Hedberg will land somewhere after the trading frenzy surrounding the restricted free agents takes place around the draft and after the loser in the Schneider Sweepstakes jumps on Josh Harding (who we'll talk about later).

    Between Hedberg and Tomas Vokoun, Chicago might look to lock up a veteran in case Corey Crawford struggles again next year.

Honorable Mention: Ray Whitney

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    This might be the last run for a championship for the 39-year-old Whitney, who has been a great player and professional for years. His most likely destination next year is retirement, so he's an honorable mention.

20. Andrei Kostitsyn

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    New Home: Florida

    This really isn't the deepest free agent class up front, so someone will likely look at the 20-goal seasons on Kostitsyn's resume and ignore how quickly he fell out of favor in Montreal this year. The 27-year-old right wing would like to get a raise from his current $3.25M cap hit, but a disappointing season might not help him get a contract like Hemsky's.

    After a year in which Dale Tallon spent a lot of money to hit the floor, he now has some money coming off his books. Kostitsyn might be a guy he looks to add.

19. Mikael Samuelsson

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    New Home: Colorado

    The Avs have a lot of free agents coming up this summer, but most of them are young. Adding a veteran banger like Samuelsson, who has a lot of postseason experience, might be a move that makes sense as Colorado tries to take the next step back into championship contention.

18. Hal Gill

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    New Home: Detroit

    Gill is a big, physical defenseman who could make a lot of sense for a number of teams. But the Red Wings might be looking to replace two veterans in Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart this summer, and Gill could be an affordable stay-at-home guy.

17. Travis Moen

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    New Home: Montreal

    The Habs like the physical play that Moen brings to their team and could have him locked up before the end of the season. If they don't, teams like Anaheim, Calgary and Winnipeg might look to add him to their mix.

16. Bryan Allen

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    New Home: Washington

    The Caps are familiar with Allen after facing him a few times. With the potential of Dennis Wideman leaving and both Mike Green and John Carlson hitting restricted free agency this summer, having a big body to bang around on the blue line might be a welcome addition in Washington.

15. PA Parenteau

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    New Home: Islanders

    The Isles have been pretty open about wanting to keep Parenteau, but the dollar amounts thrown at Ales Hemsky and Mikhail Grabovski might make him a more expensive player to keep than the Islanders were planning on. Even if his cap number is bigger than New York had initially wanted to spend, they should have him locked up before he ever hits the market.

14. Jarret Stoll

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    New Home: Edmonton

    Stoll is a hitter who brings a lot of energy to the ice. The Oilers tried to fill that role with Ben Eager, but might find Stoll to be a more appropriate player to add to their young mix this summer.

13. Olli Jokinen

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    New Home: Rangers

    Whether or not the Rangers decide to mortgage their roster to go after Rick Nash is a question that only their management and ownership folks can answer.

    But adding a veteran who can play a top-six role and put the puck in the net like Jokinen makes a lot of sense for the Rangers. The Flames would love to keep him, but New York might be a player for him.

Honorable Mention: Martin Brodeur

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    Brodeur is one of a few all-time greats that might hang up his skates this summer. If he decides to return, the best bet is on a one-year deal with the Devils. His options would appear to be retirement or back to Jersey, so we'll leave Brodeur as an honorable mention.

12. Johnny Oduya

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    New Home: Chicago

    This might surprise a few considering the obligations already on the books in Chicago, but Oduya has been a solid pickup since he was acquired at the deadline. The Hawks tried with Chris Campoli last year, but injuries and salary expectations didn't line up. Oduya is a little more physical than Campoi was and handles the puck well.

    The trickle-down from the Blackhawks potentially keeping Oduya could be Niklas Hjalmarsson and/or Steve Montador getting shipped out of town this summer.

11. David Jones

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    New Home: Los Angeles

    The Kings need scoring, and Jones could be a good role player anywhere in the bottom-nine forwards. After suffering through a ridiculous season-long scoring drought, and having Penner's cap number come available, bringing in a young skater like Jones makes sense.

10. Shane Doan

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    New Home: Detroit

    The Coyotes could/should be playing their home games somewhere other than Glendale next year, and it's questionable whether or not Doan will relocate with the organization again. He fits the mold we saw when the Wings brought in Mike Modano last year for one more run at a cup, and could be a perfect addition if it is indeed Niklas Lidstrom's final season in Motown.

9. Josh Harding

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    New Home: Columbus

    The Jackets desperately need a decent goaltender, but they'll be spending their summer selling Rick Nash more than packaging pieces to land a restricted free agent like Schneider.

    Harding will likely be the best free agent goaltender to hit the market this summer, so throwing money at him would be the right idea for a Jackets franchise that's still trying to figure out what a winning roster looks like.

8. Paul Gaustad

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    New Home: St. Louis

    The Blues are on top of the NHL right now, but will be looking to replace Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner this summer. Is there a more perfect marriage than the Ken Hitchcock-led Blues and a physical center that kills penalties and hits anything in the wrong color sweater?

7. Matt Carle

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    New Home: Calgary

    Carle appears to be the odd man out in Philly and is young enough that he'll be one of the unsung studs in a fairly deep class of defensemen hitting the market this summer. Calgary needs a leader on their blue line, and Carle seems to be the right guy to throw a lot of money at... assuming the Flames aren't trigger shy after the whole Bouwmeester debacle.

6. Nicklas Grossmann

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    New Home: Philadelphia

    Grossmann cost the Flyers a nice package to acquire before the deadline, but he might see GM Paul Holmgren offer him some money to replace both Carle and Chris Pronger in the lineup if the Flyers' captain misses more time than just this season with his concussion problems.

5. Jiri Hudler

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    New Home: Columbus

    Could Hudler be the new Ville Leino? It's possible, and if he hits the open market, he's just the type of young player coming off a career year who suckers a front office into putting too many dollars and years into a deal to take him away from his old barn. The Jackets might look at Hudler's breakout season as cause to throw a lot of money at him.

4. Dennis Wideman

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    New Home: Anaheim

    The Ducks have struggled on the back end this year, but their commitment to Francois Beauchemin indicates that they're not giving up on the mix they have in place. Bringing in an All-Star like Wideman to skate next to Cam Fowler might make a lot of sense for a team that certainly has the talent to make a run at some point.

3. Alexander Semin

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    New Home: KHL

    Not many have questioned Semin's ability, but more than a few have wondered if he really wants to be playing in North America. With there being some question regarding the NHL's involvement in the 2014 Winter Olympics, Semin might take a blockbuster deal to go to the KHL and be available to represent his country in a couple years.

Honorable Mention: Teemu Selanne

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    Selanne really has two choices this summer: retire and wait for the Hall of Fame to call, or return to Anaheim for another run at a cup. Because reality indicates that his options are only those two, he's receiving an honorable mention.

Honorable Mention: Nicklas Lidstrom

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    Lidstrom is an unrestricted free agent this summer, but the only place he would come back to next year is Detroit. So, because his options are the Red Wings or the Retirement Village, he's on the list as an honorable mention.

2. Ryan Suter

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    New Home: Detroit

    Suter is the prize on the blue line this summer. The odds that he leaves Nashville are better than Shea Weber leaving because he's unrestricted... and hasn't signed an extension yet.

    The Preds are all-in this season, trying to show their top defensive pair that they're committed to winning and paying what it takes to win, but it might be hard for the Preds to match a big-time offer from the Red Wings.

1. Zach Parise

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    New Home: Minnesota

    There have been indications that the WIld are going to go for broke to land the University of North Dakota product this summer. They made a couple major moves last summer in trading with the Sharks, but nothing would compare to signing Parise.

    He was born in Minneapolis and played at Shattuck-St. Mary's. Simply put, adding Parise would be the crown jewel for the Wild.