2012 NHL Free Agency: Where Will the Top Players Land?
With the NHL season winding down, it's time to start to turn our attention to free agency.
Beginning July 1, teams will vie to sign the players that can put them over the top. Conversely, making poor free agency decisions can set a team back for years.
Last season, the New York Rangers' decision to sign Brad Richards worked wonders, as he helped lead them to the Eastern Conference Finals. On the other hand, the Buffalo Sabres paid defenseman Christian Ehrhoff big money, but he was a big disappointment and the Sabres did not make the playoffs.
Who are the best players in this year's crop? We'll look at 10 of the best unrestricted free agents, as well as where they could end up. For all free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, head over to CapGeek.
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Parise, the captain of the Eastern Conference Champion New Jersey Devils, is the star of this year's free-agent class.
The left winger scored 31 goals, and chipped in 38 assists during the regular season. Through 18 postseason games, Parise has scored seven goals and added seven assists.
While Parise is not a dynamic offensive talent like his teammate Ilya Kovalchuk, he instead scores through hard work and gritty play. A terrific leader, the Devils will do anything to try and re-sign him. However, he might command upwards of $8 million and could be a fit for the Rangers, Kings or Bruins.
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Alexander Semin is as talented as anyone on this list, but his talent doesn't always match his production.
After tallying a career-high 40 goals for the Washington Capitals in the 2009-2010 campaign, the enigmatic winger scored 28 goals in 2010-2011, and only 21 this past season.
What player will teams be getting? The 2009-10 version? Or the 2011-12 version? It's a risk to spend big money on a player who, while possessing superstar talent, could play like a second liner.
Teams like the Rangers, Penguins, Blue Jackets and Coyotes might be interested, but they know Semin comes with a buyer beware sticker.
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Suter's defensive partner Shea Weber for the Predators may get all the attention, but Suter is quite the defenseman in his own right.
The 27-year-old American put up seven goals and 39 assists, while playing rock-solid defense. He's also a shot-blocking machine, getting in the way of 200 shots in the past two years.
Suter is a No. 1 defenseman who would upgrade every team's blue line. While every team will be interested, teams like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington will be very interested.
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Andrei Kostitsyn is a very talented forward that hasn't quite been able to put it together just yet.
After scoring a career-high 26 goals in 2007-2009, Kostitsyn only scored 16 this season, splitting time between Montreal and Nashville.
There's also the issue of character, as Kostitsyn was suspended for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals for violating team rules.
Whether that makes it harder for him to find a new home this offseason remains to be seen, but Kostitsyn can chip in 20 goals and do so relatively cheaply. Teams desperate for offense like Minnesota, Florida and Dallas might be interested.
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In 2007-08, Brad Boyes scored 43 goals, and was poised to become one of the league's young stars. It's been all downhill from there.
After scoring 33 in 08-09, Boyes has scored a total of 25 goals in the past three seasons. What gives? Boyes has battled injuries, playing only 21 games in 2010-11, and 65 this year.
It's clear Boyes has the talent; scoring 76 goals in two years is very impressive. Whatever team chooses to sign him will bank on that potential. What will they get? Hard to say, but teams like the Panthers, Blue Jackets, Oilers and Ducks will be interested to find out.
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Dennis Wideman will be a perfect addition to any team looking to boost their power play.
The 29-year-old defenseman is an offensive one at heart, scoring 11 goals and adding 35 assists for the Capitals. He's scored as many as 14 in a season, and is capable of reaching 50 points.
While not the best in his own end, he's solid enough. Make no mistake, teams are interested in him for his offensive abilities. Teams with struggling power plays, like Dallas, Phoenix, Montreal and Chicago will be very interested.
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The 40-year-old legend came back after two years in the KHL and showed he could still play, posting 19 goals and added 35 assists.
While he's not going to score 40+ goals again, Jagr can still be a valuable addition to any team needing a spark on offense.
While retirement is still an option, if Jagr chooses to play, Philadelphia might be interested in re-signing him. If not, teams like Edmonton, where Jagr has almost signed in the past, Montreal, Detroit and San Jose might want to try Jagr as an offensive boost.
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The goalie market is pretty slim this offseason, and unless Martin Brodeur decides to not re-sign with the Devils, it's going to remain that way.
Harding might be the best of this less-than-impressive class. While primarily a backup, Harding has shown enough to warrant a flyer for a goalie-starved team.
In 34 games, Harding has posted a 2.62 goals against average and a .917 save percentage. With the pickings slim, the 27-year-old, might garner some interest.
Teams with poor goaltending, like Tampa Bay, Columbus, and Winnipeg might find Harding attractive as a potential long term solution.
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Dustin Penner has not been the same player since the 2009-10 season, where he posted 32 goals and notched 31 assists.
Since then, his goals and assist totals have declined, culminating this season with only seven goals and 10 assists. Pretty lousy numbers, but many teams will love Penner's 6'4, 225-pound body in front of the opposing team's goalie.
In addition, Penner has had a very good playoffs, scoring 3 goals, including the game winner in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals to send the Kings to the Stanley Cup Finals,
Los Angeles, starved for goals in the regular season, might look to re-sign him. If not, teams like the Wild, the Panthers and the Canadiens might be attracted to Penner.
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Matt Carle is a physical defenseman with some offensive upside.
The 27-year-old posted four goals and 34 assists this year, but has hit the 40-point plateau in the past. Carle has proven himself in the tough Atlantic division, and may be ready to take the next step as a No. 1 defenseman.
Philadelphia would hate to lose him, and will pull out all the stops to re-sign him. If that fails, look for teams like Chicago, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay to offer him big bucks to join their ranks.