NHL Free Agent Predictions: Elite Free Agents Sure to Struggle Next Season

Luis BatlleContributor IJune 30, 2012

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 09:  Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils skates with puck against the Los Angeles Kings during Game Five of the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Final at the Prudential Center on June 9, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

After one of the more enticing postseason in recent years, the 2012 NHL Free Agency becomes all the more enticing this offseason.

New Jersey Devils LW Zach Parise was as integral a player as any in the team's 2012 Stanley Cup Finals run. Yet starting July 1, he will also undoubtedly be one talent moving on to a new team.

Here is an analysis of three top-notch free agents (including Parise) who are likely to find new homes and a new set of challenges next season.


Zach Parise, LW, New Jersey Devils

Parise capped off a remarkable individual 2011-12 season by leading his team to the finals of the Stanley Cup. Although they were taken down by the red-hot Los Angeles Kings, the Devils had undoubtedly exceeded expectations and should be proud of their feat.

Just how spectacular was Parise's play last season? The LW talent netted 31 goals and dropped 38 assists for a whopping 69 points on the season. In the postseason, he was just as on point with the stick, boasting eight goals and seven assists in the team's 24 games.

Talk about impressive.

Yet according to ESPN's John Buccigross, they could well lose Parise next season via free agency to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Penguins gained 2 million cap space in Staal trade. They are in position to offer front loaded contract to Zach Parise and pair him with #87

— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) June 23, 2012

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 11:  Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils shakes hands with Jeff Carter #77 of the Los Angeles Kings after Game Six of the 2012 Stanley Cup Final at Staples Center on June 11, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Kings defeated t
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

If Parise joins forces with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the Penguins would significantly boost their attack, yet not right away. It will take an adjustment period for Parise to get up to speed in this somewhat different system. No doubt about it. Don't be surprised to see this talent start of slow if he is to make the trip to Pittsburgh this offseason.


Ray Whitney, LW, Phoenix Coyotes

Another top-notch LW in the NHL is Ray Whitney, who comes off a regular season of epic proportions and solid postseason as well.

Whitney posted 22 goals and 53 assists with the team last season and two goals and five assists in the playoffs. His consistency up front, along with goalie Mike Smith's star-studded play, took the Coyotes to the conference semifinals.

Whitney will undoubtedly struggle elsewhere if he doesn't re-sign with Phoenix, as it is clear he wants to continue playing with the team. However, according to The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson, Phoenix might not have the means to pay the talent the money he wants next season.


Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey Devils

Future Hall-of-Fame worthy goalie Martin Brodeur is undoubtedly going to test the free-agent market this offseason.

As a member of the Devils, his puck-handling mastery and solid goal play was exactly what made him such a unique, special talent in the game. Although likely to move on to another team, there is no doubt he will be less effective than he was with this unit.

The team had adapted to his style of play and were able to win games in that fashion. It will take a major transition period if a team takes a chance on this special goalie.