NHL Free Agents: 25 Biggest Names and Where They Will Play in 2012-13
With only four teams left in the 2012 NHL playoffs, most of the league has turned its attention to the NHL draft and the start of free agency on July 1.
What this year's class lacks in superstar players, it makes up for in depth at several positions. There will be many veteran players available this summer who could be the final piece to a contending team's championship puzzle.
Let's look at the 25 best unrestricted free agents and where they will sign.
Ryan Suter: Detroit Red Wings
Sooner or later, the Detroit Red Wings need to find the player who will replace Nicklas Lidstrom as the team's No. 1 defenseman, and this summer is the time to do that.
Ryan Suter is an elite defenseman who dominates at both ends of the ice and is only 27 years old. Detroit has a winning tradition, a passionate fanbase and lots of money under the cap this summer.
If Suter leaves Nashville, the Red Wings are his best option for many reasons.
Zach Parise: Carolina Hurricanes
New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise will be the top unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Carolina Hurricanes are reportedly interested in signing him.
With superstar center Eric Staal badly needing a winger who can score goals alongside him, Parise would be a great fit in Carolina. They also have lots of money to spend under the salary cap.
Alexander Semin: Re-Signs with Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals have found their goalie for the future; now they need to make sure their offense is still potent next year.
That step starts with re-signing Alexander Semin, who is one of the better left wingers in the NHL. As long as he doesn't demand an insane salary, the Capitals should re-sign the talented Russian.
Chris Kelly: Tampa Bay Lightning
Chris Kelly scored a career high 20 goals this season, which was a real plus for the Boston Bruins because they acquired him at the trade deadline last year for his defensive play.
A team needing a two-way forward like the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a lot of sense for him.
Shane Doan: Re-Signs with Phoenix Coyotes
Shane Doan is the face of the Phoenix Coyotes franchise, and I cannot see him ever leaving the team. He's one of their most marketable players and is still a quality top-six forward.
He also hasn't shown much, if any, desire to leave in the summer.
Ray Whitney: Boston Bruins
Ray Whitney would have been a solid pickup for the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline, but they certainly should look at him in the summer as a free agent.
The Bruins really need another top-six forward and someone who can rejuvenate an embarrassingly poor power play.
Olli Jokinen: Re-Signs with Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames cannot to let Olli Jokinen walk in free agency this summer after he finished second on the team in scoring, and they have no one to replace his production next year.
Brad Stuart: San Jose Sharks
If Brad Stuart wants to be near his family and still play on a contending team, then the San Jose Sharks are a perfect fit for him, especially since they need more talent and depth on the blueline.
Dennis Wideman: Re-Signs with Washington Capitals
Dennis Wideman was an all-star this season and really found a home in Washington. Therefore, I see no reason for him to leave the Capitals if they're willing to re-sign him to a salary close to what he made this season.
The Capitals have some decisions to make on defense this summer in free agency, but Wideman shouldn't go anywhere.
Even though he can struggle in his own end, his offensive production is very valuable.
Dustin Penner: Toronto Maple Leafs
Dustin Penner has played much better in the playoffs compared to the regular season with the Los Angeles Kings and would be a nice fit on the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Leafs general manager Brian Burke wants his team to be more physical, so adding a Penner, who probably wouldn't cost too much, would be a smart move.
Jamie Langenbrunner: Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers could use a veteran player with Stanley Cup experience that excels at both ends of the ice and is a strong leader.
Matt Carle: Nashville Predators
Since it's likely that the Nashville Predators will lose Shea Weber and/or Ryan Suter in free agency over the next year, they will have to rebuild their blueline.
Matt Carle would be a solid signing that wouldn't break the bank.
Brad Boyes: Colorado Avalanche
Playing alongside young stars such as Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene on the Colorado Avalanche would help veteran forward Brad Boyes revive his career.
Ryan Smyth: Re-Signs with Edmonton Oilers
Unless he wants to leave for a Stanley Cup contender, I would expect Ryan Smyth to remain with the Edmonton Oilers. He enjoys the city and is a fan favorite in Edmonton.
Johnny Oduya: New York Islanders
The New York Islanders need more offense from their defense, so signing a blueliner such as Johnny Oduya would be a smart idea.
If the Islanders don't sign Oduya, expect them to target several other defensemen in free agency.
Tomas Vokoun: Columbus Blue Jackets
Tomas Vokoun didn't play in the postseason for the Washington Capitals because of injury and rookie Braden Holtby's brilliance in net, but he's still a starting NHL netminder.
The Columbus Blue Jackets desperately need goaltending and should make a run at Vokoun in free agency.
Bryan Allen: Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens need to get tougher and stronger, especially on defense. Veteran defenseman Bryan Allen would be a strong defensive addition to the Canadiens and could also feature on the penalty kill.
Josh Harding: Toronto Maple Leafs
Unless Brian Burke wants to make a bold move for Roberto Luongo, signing a talented goaltender like Josh Harding to a short-term deal would be the way to go.
Pavel Kubina: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues might lose Barrett Jackman in free agency, so adding a veteran defenseman such as Pavel Kubina would be a smart idea this summer.
Travis Moen: Toronto Maple Leafs
Adding a third line tough guy like Travis Moen who can add some physicality and toughness to the lineup would be a smart depth signing for the Toronto Maple Leafs
Jason Arnott: Winnipeg Jets
If the Winnipeg Jets want to make the playoffs next year, signing a veteran with a championship ring like Jason Arnott would be a smart move.
Kristian Huselius: St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues have a lot of toughness at forward, but they lack a real goal scorer. Kristian Huselius has battled injuries recently, but if he's healthy, he's a solid offensive player who can score goals.
Brian Rolston: Pittsburgh Penguins
Brian Rolston proved he could still be a valuable third line player offensively after he was traded from the New York Islanders to the Boston Bruins this season.
The Penguins need some more depth on the wings, and since they don't have a ton of cap space, Rolston would be a good inexpensive signing.
Dominic Moore: Buffalo Sabres
Dominic Moore would be a good veteran addition to a Buffalo Sabres team lacking toughness and grit. He would also be an inexpensive signing.
Gregory Campbell: Re-Signs with Boston Bruins
Gregory Campbell is a top-tier fourth-line player who fights, kills penalties and has strong defensive abilities.
It would be unwise for the Bruins to let Campbell walk when their fourth line is a strength of the team and gets good ice time each game.