NHL Free Agents 2012: Best Players and Where They Will Play in 2012-13
National Hockey League free agency is now just a few days away.
In what is one of the most highly-anticipated events of the hockey year, several players will see their contracts expire, leaving them free to sign with other clubs.
The 2012 free-agency class might not be the deepest, but that does not mean there isn't a number of high-quality free agents available.
This is the cream of the crop.
Restricted free agents are not included.
14. Pavel Kubina
D - Philadelphia Flyers - 35
Where he will end up: Washington Capitals
At 6'4", 258 pounds, Pavel Kubina is a mountain of a man.
Possibly the most physically imposing defenseman in the league, Kubina is a prototypical shutdown blueliner: big, a good stick, and a shot-blocking machine.
The Caps need a big guy on the back-end, and Kubina is perfect.
13. PA Parenteau
RW - New York Islanders - 29
Where he will end up: Montreal Canadiens
Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau is the definition of a late bloomer.
The 29-year-old didn't break into the NHL full-time until he was 27, but has since gone on to score 38 goals and 120 points in just 161 games.
There has been speculation that Parenteau wants to play in Montreal. The Canadiens need top-end physical scorers, and there are few better in the NHL the than Quebec-native.
At this point, there is no reason to believe Parenteau will sign anywhere other than Montreal.
12. Paul Gaustad
C - Nashville Predators - 30
Where he will end up: Toronto Maple Leafs
Paul Gaustad is just the new breed of player that every NHL team needs.
A physical, defensively-minded center, Gaustad excels in the faceoff circle and brings good veteran leadership.
The Toronto Maple Leafs could do with adding stability further down the order, and the package of skills Guastad brings could help push Brian Burke's team over the edge and into the playoffs.
11. Matt Carle
D - Philadelphia Flyers - 27
Where he will end up: New York Islanders
What really stands out about Matt Carle's game is that nothing stands out.
A steady blueliner, Carle can provide no-nonsense stability on a defensive corps.
That is why he would be a very solid addition for the New York Islanders, a team clearly in need of blueline help.
10. Hall Gill
D - Nashville Predators - 37
Where he will end up: Nashville Predators
In recent seasons, Hal Gill has blossomed into being one of the NHL's finest veteran shutdown defensemen.
At 6'7", 250-pounds, the shutdown role comes naturally to him. A smart and physical defensive blueliner, Gill is the kind of shot-blocking machine every team could use.
When the Nashville Predators acquired Gill at the deadline, it wasn't necessarily to be a quick fix. If they can't re-sign Ryan Suter, they most certainly will get Hal Gill back.
9. Dustin Penner
LW - Los Angeles Kings - 29
Where he will end up: Los Angeles Kings
Like all of his teammates, Dustin Penner significantly helped his free-agency stock through his role in his team's Stanley Cup triumph.
At 6'4", 245-pounds, Penner is a physical, no-nonsense scorer, who now has two Stanley Cup rings to his name.
The Kings gave up a lot to get Penner at the 2011 trade deadline, and are unlikely to want to let him go for free. He could well return to the Staples Center next season.
8. Jaromir Jagr
RW - Philadelphia Flyers - 40
Where he will end up: Philadelphia Flyers
After a three-year hiatus in the Kontinental Hockey League, Jaromir Jagr returned to the NHL last season, and was an immediate success for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 40-year-old Czech legend provided leadership and scoring to a Flyers lineup that desperately needed it.
There is no reason to believe that Jagr will sign anywhere other than Philadelphia for next season.
7. Ray Whitney
LW - Phoenix Coyotes - 40
Where he will end up: Boston Bruins
Because of his age, it is easy to forget just how good Ray Whitney still is.
The 40-year-old was a 24-goal, 77-point scorer in the NHL last season.
The winger can still be a reliable offensive force, while also offering a good veteran presence on and off the ice.
There is a good chance Whitney ends up in Boston, a team that could use another top-six winger to boost its dismal powerplay in 2012-13.
6. Dennis Wideman
D - Washington Capitals - 29
Where he will end up: Colorado Avalanche
Unlike the 2012 NHL entry draft, which was flush with defensemen, free agency is low on the back-end.
That should serve to make players like Dennis Wideman even more sought after.
A quality two-way defenseman, Wideman is coming off a career year, and should be in for a big payday on June 1.
The Capitals' defenseman struggled after the All-Star break, where he participated in his first All-Star Game, and is unlikely to return to Washington.
Colorado need defensemen, and have the cap-space to offer Wideman a lot of money.
5. Shane Doan
RW - Phoenix Coyotes - 35
Where he will end up: Washington Capitals
Willie Mitchell and Justin Williams showed how valuable veterans are in a playoff run for the Los Angeles Kings. Shane Doan should be a hot commodity on June 1.
Doan is an all-round winger who can do everything on the ice. That should help him, too.
The Phoenix Coyotes captain has spent his whole career with the franchise, and lives and breathes the organization.
With that being said, he is 35 years old, and is unlikely to win a Stanley Cup in Arizona.
The Caps have salary cap space, a hole on the right side of their first-line, and a general manager who wants to win.
4. Justin Schultz
D - Anaheim Ducks - 21
Where he will end up: Edmonton Oilers
It is not often a college prospect gets more hype than an experienced NHL veteran, but there is no doubt Justin Schultz has stolen the headlines this summer.
The Anaheim Ducks' second-round pick in the 2008 draft, Schultz officially left the University of Wisconsin in May and has since become an infamous contract rebel, refusing to sign with the Ducks.
His package of offensive and defensive skills and maturity beyond his age makes him a truly special player, and he should be highly sought-after when he hits free agency on July 1.
Schultz might want to play in his home country, Canada. It is thought he will sign north of the border.
Edmonton need defensemen, and will likely offer Schultz more of a commitment than any other NHL team will be willing to.
3. Alexander Semin
RW - Washington Capitals - 28
Where he will end up: Detroit Red Wings
He may be enigmatic, but there have never been any question regarding the immense talent level that Alexander Semin possesses.
In fact, after the first 27 games of the 2011-12 season saw Semin score just five goals and 11 points, along with 36 penalty minutes and a minus-9 rating, the Russian ended his regular season in impressive fashion, scoring 16 goals and 43 points in 50 games to go along with just 20 penalty minutes and a plus-18.
When trusted with ice time and loved by the fans, Alex Semin is undoubtedly one of the league's very best players.
Semin would be trusted with ice time alongside superstar center Pavel Datysuk. Detroit could be the perfect place for the 28-year-old native of Krasnoyarsk to finally become a superstar in his own right.
2. Zach Parise
LW - New Jersey Devils - 27
Where he will end up: New Jersey Devils
Zach Parise has for years dominated offensively in a hockey market where defense speaks loudest, leaving onlookers asking just how good he might be playing on an offensively-minded team.
A Devils captain and US olympian, Parise has been a 30-plus goalscorer at the NHL level five times, and has twice racked up over 80 points.
He is an honest, hard-working forward who takes command of his troops on the ice, and is the kind of player every general manager would love to have spearheading his team.
At this point, however, it seems Parise will stay in New Jersey.
Before the Devils' miraculous Stanley Cup finals run, it seemed inevitable that he would leave, but, considering the success his team has had recently, there is a good chance he re-signs in the coming days.
1. Ryan Suter
D - Nashville Predators - 27
Where he will end up: Detroit Red Wings
Ryan Suter is the prize of 2012 NHL free agency.
The American is the epitome of everything a modern NHL defenseman needs to be: dominant in both zones, physical, hard-working, and a leader.
Odds are that on July 1, 30 NHL teams will be calling Suter's agent to enquire about his availability.
At this point, there is no reason to believe Suter will re-sign in Nashville.
Considering the defensive holes with Nicklas Lidström leaving and the high cap space left behind, Ryan Suter-to-Detroit seems to be a match made in heaven. Look for the Red Wings to make a hard run to sign Suter, and for them to succeed.
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