NHL Free Agency: Stanley Cup Finals Players Who May Move
While the hockey season and the Stanley Cup finals continue, the offseason has already begun for 28 NHL teams. For most hockey fans, their team falls into the 28.
It might be a little depressing to watch the finals without your team playing, but there are things to look forward to.
With the playoffs winding down, free agency will begin soon and players will move across the continent to find the best situation for them. Players you might have despised in 2011-12 could be your new favorite by September.
Even some of the players still playing won't be in the same jersey come October. These players battling for the cup may be able to bring some of their winning pedigree and experience to your city in 2012-13.
Here are the top upcoming free agents from both conference champions—the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings.
Colin Fraser is one of the few Los Angeles Kings who is not signed through next season. The team has a multitude of young talent that they have secured for years to come.
But Fraser is in his first, and what could be last, year with the Kings. The 27-year-old center has previously played with Chicago and Edmonton as well.
In his time with the Kings, Fraser primarily served on the fourth line. In 67 games, Fraser recorded just eight points. He was quiet in the playoffs until Wednesday night's Game 1, in which he scored his first career playoff goal.
While he wasn't a primary contributor this season, Fraser has had flashes of solid play and has helped put Los Angeles into their current position. That experience will prove beneficial to him when teams come calling.
Bryce Salvador has been one of the most surprising players this postseason.
The New Jersey defenseman has been electric in the playoffs. During the regular season, Salvador recorded just nine points while playing in all 82 games. In the 19 playoff games for the Devils, Salvador has 12 points.
Salvador began his career in 2000 with St. Louis, but came to New Jersey during the 2007-08 season. Salvador's remarkable playoffs come in his first season back after missing all of 2010-11 with concussion systems.
If Salvador continues to exceed expectations, he could be in for a large payday from an NHL team willing to take the risk.
Jarret Stoll may not get as many looks from fans when free agency begins due to his drop in points, but don't let the numbers fool you.
Stoll has seen a significant drop-off in points this season, lowering his total from 43 in 2010-11 to 21 in 2011-12. His six goals were his lowest total since coming to the NHL full time in 2003-04.
A significant reason for his statistical decline is the new role Stoll has taken for this Kings team. With the arrival of Mike Richards during the offseason, Stoll was moved from the second line to the third. With less minutes on the ice, Stoll was unable to produce at the same pace.
With his new role, Stoll has played very well as a two-way center and has been very useful defensively.
Should Stoll decide to leave L.A., he may in fact return to a top six forward position. Either way, Stoll is a player that will will contribute where he is needed and can be an asset to any team.
At 35 years old, Petr Sykora is near the end of his hockey-playing days. But the veteran has proved doubters wrong all season.
After spending a year playing in Europe, Sykora earned a tryout with the Devils and made it count by returning to the team that drafted him in 1995.
The risky move by New Jersey paid off in a big way. Sykora not only played in all 82 games for the Devils this season, he recorded 44 points. His 21 goals were good for fifth on the team.
While he hasn't performed as well in the playoffs, Sykora proved that he still has what it takes to make an impact in the NHL. He is a risky player due to his age, but he if he can stay healthy like he did in 2011-12, he will be a huge benefit to any team he joins.
Like Stoll, Dustin Penner's biggest issue might be the fact that he is a third-line player for the Kings.
Penner is a Stanley Cup Champion after earning a title with Anaheim in 2006-07. He has shown he can score, logging a 63-point season with 32 goals for Edmonton in 2009-10.
Since arriving in Los Angeles during last season, Penner hasn't seen the same offensive production. In 65 games this season, the forward had only 17 points.
Still, his experience and championship pedigree have helped him play well in the postseason. Penner already has recorded 10 points and scored the series-clinching goal against Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals.
If given the opportunity, Penner will be able to return to his scoring form and bring a struggling offensive team a much needed boost.
Zach Parise will be one of the most sought after free agents in the NHL after the postseason.
In 2011-12, Parise scored 31 goals, good for second on the team behind only Ilya Kovalchuk. In his seven season in the NHL and with New Jersey, Parise has become a leader on the ice and in the dressing room, earning the right to be captain.
Parise will likely require a hefty sum to sign as the forward becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season. Expect every team that can afford to take on a large contract to be in play for him.