NHL Free Agents 2012: 11 Best Locker-Room Leaders on the Market

John B Matheson@@JB_WebberCorrespondent IJune 13, 2012

NHL Free Agents 2012: 11 Best Locker-Room Leaders on the Market

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    Every year once the Stanley Cup champions are crowned, everyone’s attention turns to the entry draft, free agency and the trades that surround them.

    The trades have already begun, with Washington and Detroit already sending players to new teams.

    It has only just begun. And as the draft closes in, teams will try to better their draft position and trade players to fit the holes each team has.

    There are some notable names in this year’s free-agent class, many of whom are predicted to be on the move.

    This year could see some of the bigger names at the professional level moving on to new teams.

    Some will be players who are ready to step into leadership roles, while others will be looking to lead in a new town.

    In the slides that follow, we look at 15 locker-room leaders that could be on the move, as well as predictions of teams that may try to land these players due to the needs of the club.

Alexander Semin

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    Semin is another top goal scorer who will be on the market come summer, and one who will have a lot of interest.

    Many of the teams that will be looking to sign Zach Parise will also be looking at the Washington Capitals forward.

    He is among the top goal scorers in the league and would do well on any team looking to add offense.

    He ended this season with 54 points that included 21 goals. At 6'2" he has some size that can help a variety of teams as well.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Semin: New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs

Dennis Wideman

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    While Wideman is not Ryan Suter, who most teams looking for defense are going to chase, he is a very talented player in his own right.

    There are a number of teams rumored to be looking at Wideman as a Plan B should they not be able to obtain Suter.

    Teams like Detroit and even the Rangers were mentioned around the trade deadline.

    He is a skilled puck-moving defenseman who has done well on the power play.

    He managed 46 points during the regular season, although he was held to only three assists during the playoffs.

    Wideman is a good choice for teams needing to shore up their defense, though most will attempt to obtain Suter first.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Wideman: Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers

Paul Gaustad

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    Nashville picked up Paul Gaustad from Buffalo right at the trade deadline this year. The cost was steep, as it sent Buffalo its first-round draft pick.

    Gaustad has said he would like to return to Nashville, and while it has potential, the future of much of the club rests on Ryan Suter.

    Should the Predators not opt to keep him, there will be a lot of interest around the 6'5" center.

    In 70 games he had only seven goals and 14 assists. It could be enough to gain him a similar deal money-wise to his current $2.3 million deal.

    There was a fair amount of interest in Gaustad around the trade deadline. A similar amount of interest can be expected that if he does make it to free agency.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Gaustad: Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs

Dustin Penner

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    While the Kings winger had a regular season below expectations, he managed to add 11 points during LA’s run to become Stanley Cup champions.

    He has the ability to score and has four 20-plus goal seasons.

    The main issue teams will have is with his desire to play. His tenure with the Kings has seen his career-worst production.

    That added to some questionable injuries he’s had in LA, and he could seem like a risk.

    Penner is still young and very capable; having the option to play in a town he likes may be enough motivation to bring Penner back to form.

    Either way he will be looking at a large pay cut next season.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Penner: Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs

Kristian Huselius

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    The 33-year-old Swede may be moving on to greener pastures during this offseason, as the Columbus Blue Jackets are looking at making a large overhaul to their team.

    Huselius has been plagued by injuries over the last two seasons and will most likely be looking at a pay cut from the $4.75 million dollar deal he currently has.

    Before his injury Huselius had played nine seasons and scored 20-plus goals in eight of them.

    He is a commodity that could go cheap to a team needing a veteran scorer.

    With so many teams looking to add a top-line center, there should be a lot of interest in the Blue Jackets winger.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Huselius: Calgary Flames, Florida Panthers

Shane Doan

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    At 35 years old, Doan may be closing in on the end of his career and could be looking for one last contract.

    He is still among the more coveted veteran forwards in the league, and this summer he becomes a UFA.

    Doan helped lead the Coyotes to their first conference finals since moving to the desert, and he has been the captain there the last few years.

    His leadership and defensive ability will have a number of teams circling once July 1 hits.

    Doan may seem content to stay, but with the ownership deal once more in trouble—as reported by the Vancouver Sun—Doan may look for a team with stability.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Doan: Edmonton Oilers, Detroit Red Wings, Colorado Avalanche

Olli Jokinen

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    The 33-year-old center had one of his best seasons in 2011-12 with the Calgary Flames. Amassing a total of 61 points, Jokinen proved he is still a threat on the ice.

    Calgary may be looking to go another direction, as they recently signed Roman Cervenka from the KHL. The Flames also announced recently that they could spend to the cap, if needed.

    With it looking as though Jokinen may have already been replaced in Calgary, there are still a number of options that could use his skills.

    The 13-year veteran will be sought after by any team looking for a large presence up front, and at 6'3" and 215 pounds, Jokinen is just that.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Jokinen: Anaheim Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes, Florida Panthers

Ryan Smyth

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    Its no real secret that Smyth wants to retire an Oiler; he requested a trade back to Edmonton during last year’s offseason.

    The rumors began around the trade deadline that Edmonton may trade Smyth. Among the front runners at the time were the New York Rangers.

    Smyth becomes a free agent in the summer and may have to test the waters, as the Oilers' needs are heavier in the net and on defense.

    Smyth may be the odd man out.

    He is still a talented player who will be sought after by a few teams looking to add a talented veteran.

    Expect him to sign a short term deal with whatever team he goes to. If he does re-sign in Edmonton, it will be for less than he was making this season.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Smyth: Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes, Washington Capitals

Jaromir Jagr

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    When Jagr returned to the NHL at the beginning of this past season, it shocked a number of people.

    The former MVP wanted people to know that his decision to come back to the NHL was not a money grab; NESN reported that there were a number of teams that had made a larger offer.

    Jagr finished the regular season with 54 points, showing that age has not affected his skill level.

    His one-year deal with Philadelphia ends July 1, and while his agent is in talks with Philly, Jagr has declined to speak about his future with the Flyers.

    The teams that could be looking at Jagr would not be expecting him to carry the team, but rather be a talented veteran to help the younger players.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Jagr: Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens

Ryan Suter

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    The Predators have been trying to re-sign Suter back to Nashville all season, and to no avail.

    Whatever reasons he has given to the media and the Predators organization, Suter seems content to let things drag on, possibly so he can test the free-agency waters.

    There is already a large buzz around Suter and the possibility of him ending up with division rivals the Detroit Red Wings.

    Other teams have been named as being interested, such as Chicago and Philadelphia among the top likely candidates.

    Suter is one of the league's best defensemen, and with a smaller salary than teammate Shea Weber, Suter is likely very attractive to a number of teams.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Suter: Detroit Red Wings, Chicago Blackhawks, Philadelphia Flyers

Zach Parise

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    The New Jersey forward is quite possibly the most sought-after player in this year’s crop of free agents.

    It started around the trade deadline, when the rumors of Parise’s departure from New Jersey began.

    Since then he has been connected to a number of teams, from Toronto to the New York Rangers. It seems that everyone wants to try and sign him.

    At 27, he is still young enough to sign a long-term deal with the team of his choice.

    Parise helped the Devils get to the Stanley Cup Finals, which, combined with his skill level, should help him land a large contract.

    Teams Predicted to Pursue Parise: New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks,