Aside from the incredible excitement that is the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, we are set for another solid NHL free-agent class. Many of the players set to hit the market will be forced to bring their "A game" during this upcoming Stanley Cup run in an effort to land the proverbial fat cash.
Here are the predictions for where the top stars will land this summer. Enjoy.
Ray Whitney: Phoenix Coyotes
The Wizard will likely stay another year in Phoenix if he plays at all. At 39 years of age, it's tough to call whether he will stick out another year for one last chance to drink from the Cup—barring a Coyotes Cup run this season of course.
The fans of the fox down in the desert showed Whitney the love he deserved after reaching the 1,000-game milestone, as well as the 1,000-point milestone a few days later.
Cheers to the Wizard! (Pictured with Senator John McCain)
Ryan Suter: Tampa Bay Lightning
Suter has clearly learned from his superstar blue-line mate Shea Weber and is ready to be a No. 1 defenseman for one very lucky NHL franchise.
Suter is just 27 years old and aching to lead a team's defense to the playoffs, and we all know there isn't one team in the league who needs defense more than Tampa Bay. It has to be tough when you have the league's only 60-goal scorer and can't find a way to make the playoffs.
Bolts GM Stevie Yzerman will utilize the humble sniper Stamkos to recruit new talent, just as any genius GM would.
This isn't the most talented free-agent market we've ever seen, but Suter leads the way after another stellar season toeing the blue line in Tennessee.
Zach Parise: Detroit Red Wings
Parise is set to be one of the biggest names open to the entire league this offseason, and the American-born goal scorer is sure to get a call from Hockeytown.
The Devils opened their captain to the trade market before the deadline, but made the wise choice and stuck with him for the remainder of the season, as the Devils are true contenders for the Stanley Cup—this season at least.
Parise is just 27 years old and stuck in the prime of his career, and after the Devils dished out the cash to sniper Ilya Kovalchuk two years ago, it's likely that they will not be able to pay Parise the money he deserves.
Bad news for the rest of the West; the Red Wings will be great next season. Again.
Alexander Semin: KHL
It's clear the front office in the nation's Capital are focused solely on winning the Stanley Cup, and it's not their fault for bringing in the superstar Semin and his large contract. At first, Semin seemed comfortable and focused, encompassing everything that was asked of him to be the best Capital he could.
Clearly, that has not been the case for Ovechkin's "BFF" and the Capitals' accounting department couldn't be happier to part ways after not living up to that $6.7 million contract. There is no way an NHL franchise will offer him that kind of money coming off of his numerous weak seasons.
As Semin has proven he's uncomfortable and uncoachable, his best bet for cashing fat checks resides not far from home in the KHL.
Cory Schneider: Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa will have an easy sell because Schneider is extremely talented, yet unnoticed and undervalued. Once Tampa brings him in for the "why we love you" presentation, highlights of the Bolts' less-than-stellar 2012 campaign will mostly include Stamkos' 60 goals in between Marty St. Louis' hat tricks.
Schneider is a restricted free agent and the only realistic way to land an RFA is to dish out draft picks and a long-term deal that his current team is not likely to offer. Seeing as how Vancouver's current netminder Roberto Luongo just turned 33 years old and is poised to continue his Martin Brodeur-esque career for the next few seasons, they should cash in on Schneider while they can.
I always make the comparison to Aaron Rodgers being the best quarterback in the NFL because of staying behind the legendary Brett Favre for three seasons. This is exactly why I give Schneider so much credit. Aside from the five-game win streak, he is forced to do nothing but watch the Canadian superstar Luongo shut it down, inevitably giving Schneider a free goaltending lesson every single game.