2012 NHL Free Agents: Biggest Targets Playoff Contenders Are Gunning for

Kevin Boilard@@KevinBoilardCorrespondent IJune 27, 2012

2012 NHL Free Agents: Biggest Targets Playoff Contenders Are Gunning for

0 of 4

    With the Stanley Cup finals now in the rear-view mirror, many general managers will be looking back on the 2011-12 season and assessing the areas in which their team fell short.  Some teams were only a key player or two away from hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup themselves. 

    For those teams, finding a big free agent talent is pivotal for an improved 2012-13 season.

    This year’s free agent class is deep.  There are plenty of players, many with extensive playoff experience, that will be valuable targets this summer. 

    Teams like the Rangers, Blues and Canucks had impressive regular seasons, but ultimately fell short in crunch time.  Those teams, among others, will look to bounce back in 2012-13 and in order to do so, they will need to search for the missing piece of the puzzle this offseason.

    This article will lay out the NHL’s top four unrestricted free agents and point out what on-ice advantages they can bring to a new team.

Zach Parise, LW

1 of 4

    The New Jersey Devils will be hurting in 2012-13 if they are unable to bring back Zach Parise.  The Devils left-winger is easily the most talented free agent this summer.

    Parise made his NHL debut in 2005 and has played every game of his seven-year career in New Jersey red.  However, that could quickly change this offseason. 

    Many teams have Parise on their free agent radar.

    In just over 500 regular season games, Parise has notched 194 career goals in addition to 216 assists.  Although his elite scoring prowess would be a precious addition to any team, expect him to sign with a potential Stanley Cup contender.  After coming so close to a title in 2012, Parise will be working relentlessly to return to the playoffs and wash the bitter taste of defeat from his mouth.

Alexander Semin, LW

2 of 4

    Alexander Semin has spent his last six seasons in the shadow of another Alexander on the Capitals roster, Alex Ovechkin—you may have heard of him.  However, the left winger is set to become a free agent in a few days, as he has expressed no interest in coming back for an eighth season with the Caps.

    Semin has been an efficient scorer in Washington.  His 197 goals and 211 assists look eerily similar to Parise’s statistics, yet Semin has played in 33 fewer games throughout his career. 

    While many teams will be bidding on the New Jersey forward, Semin will make a perfect “Plan B” for any team that swings and misses on Parise.

    Semin is a player with the talent to become one of the league’s top superstars.  However, his effort and work ethic were questioned at times in Washington.  Joining a new team in a new city may breathe new life and motivation into the Russian point producer.

Matt Carle, D

3 of 4

    Defenseman Matt Carle played his first three seasons with the San Jose Sharks and his last four with the Philadelphia Flyers, with a brief 12-game stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning in between.  While the Flyers insist on bringing Carle back, it looks like the defenseman is well on his way to becoming an NHL journeyman.

    According to Hockey-Reference.com, Carle is +55 during his time in Philadelphia and has created 11 goals in each of his three full seasons with the team.  His stellar play would make an excellent addition to any team that struggles on the defensive end of the ice.

    At 6’, 205 lbs., Carle is not a physically imposing defender.  However, whichever team signs him will reap the benefits of a nasty attitude that Carle has adopted after playing nearly four years with the Broad Street Bullies.

Jaromir Jagr, RW

4 of 4

    At 40-years-old, Jaromir Jagr is a living legend.  He came out of retirement and joined the Philadelphia Flyers for the 2011-12 season, eventually leading them to a playoff berth.

    With 1,653 career points, Jagr is no stranger to the back of the net. Although, his 19 goals and 35 assists in 2011-12 were his lowest point totals since his rookie season two decades ago, many teams will overlook his age and view him as a valuable target in free agency.

    Despite his age, CBSsports.com still ranks Jagr in the top ten unrestricted free agents of 2012.  While his scoring totals have slipped, his experience and leadership qualities are unquantifiable. 

    At the very least, Jagr will sell tickets.  No matter where he lands, fans of all ages will come out to see one of the greatest of all time play. 

    For Jagr, though, one last shot at a championship will be his motivation heading into the 2012-13 season.  For that reason alone, Jagr should be one of the top free agent prospects of 2012.