As the 2011-2012 NHL season begins its final act, we look ahead to the start of a new hockey year. For fans around the league, free agency offers the promise of a run to the Cup next season. This off-season could very well be named the Summer of Ryan and Zach, as American stars Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are set to become unrestricted free agents.
Dreams of signing one or both of these two franchise players surely live in the minds of hockey fans, General Managers and coaches around the league. The reality is that only a few teams will be able to sign these two guys.
For those 28 or 29 teams who'll miss out on Parise and Suter, here are a few diamonds in the rough that fans should get excited about.
Jarret Stoll had a tough 2011-2012 season, scoring only 21 points in 78 games.
Coming off of a down season, Stoll could be a steal. He's a second/third line tweener center, and he's responsible at both ends of the ice.
Stoll's real value is in the depth he adds to a team. He has been a clutch player in the playoffs for the Kings in their run to the Cup—he has 2 game-winning goals this postseason.
Stoll would be a nice addition to any team looking to add depth and a veteran presence to the locker room.
Olli Jokinen had a comeback season this year. His 23 goals and 61 points helped keep the fledgling Calgary Flames in the hunt for a playoff spot.
With Calgary probably looking to rebuild, Jokinen will look to move on to a new team. A producer on the PP, Jokinen should be considered by any team looking for offense. He would be a nice addition to a high-end teams like Vancouver or Chicago, or he could return to his roots in Florida.
Vokoun had an up-and-down 2011-2012 season with the Washington Capitals. But with the team probably looking to move on to young tenders like Braden Holtby and Michal Neuvirth, Vokoun should be looking for a team again in 2012.
Even at his age, Vokoun is a very solid goaltender who can make the big save when he needs to. He could propel a team that needs a goalie, like the Chicago Blackhawks, back into serious Stanley Cup contention.
Every team in need of a defensemen will look to wine and dine free agent defenseman Ryan Suter onto their team. But those teams that lose out on the Suter sweepstakes could ease their pain by pursuing Florida's Jason Garrison.
Garrison is an extremely effective offensive defenseman, who'll be entering his prime next season. Garrison's wicked slapshot makes him a formidable weapon on the power play and at even strength.
Unlike many of the other players on this list, Garrison won't come cheap this offseason. After scoring 16 goals and 33 points last season, he'll be in prime position to cash in on a big-time deal. Garrison should be the No. 2 free agent defenseman after Suter, so many teams will be vying for his services on July 1.