NHL Free Agents 2012: 10 of the Biggest Names on the Market

Eric Steitz@esteitz16Analyst IIIJune 30, 2012

NHL Free Agents 2012: 10 of the Biggest Names on the Market

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    For the first time in recent memory, NHL free agency, which begins July 1, could make or break teams. With the number of big names and the vast amount of talent floating around to the highest bidder, this is an exciting time for hockey fans everywhere.

    There are first-pair defensemen on the market, like Nashville's Ryan Suter—and potentially Shea Weber, though that is a stretch.

    First-line forwards are also on the market, like New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise and Los Angeles Kings winger Dustin Penner. Not to be overlooked, Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals is on the market, as is Calgary Flames veteran center Olli Jokinen.

    In case your team needs goaltending, how about future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur?

    Here are 10 of the biggest names on the market in no particular order. 

Olli Jokinen

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    Olli Jokinen has made his way around the NHL in his 16-year career. The 33-year-old has spent time with six different clubs, including his longest tenure of six seasons with the Florida Panthers.

    The veteran center has nearly 700 points (292 goals, 391 assists) and would be a valuable addition to any team's second or third line.

    Jokinen, like most veterans, probably wants to go to a contender because you never know how much longer he has in the league. I expect him to sign a five-year deal outside of Calgary.

    The Finnish first-round draft pick has only been to the playoffs once, in 2009 with Calgary. Reaching the playoffs should be a mutual interest with whoever signs him. 

P.A. Parenteau

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    One of the guys with the most to gain from free agency is P.A. Parenteau of the New York Islanders.

    Any skilled player could benefit from joining a more complete team than the Islanders. Let's face it, there are about 28 other teams in the NHL that are more complete than the Isles.

    You can't blame Parenteau for wanting to get out of Long Island, but he wants a long-term contract and has only played two complete NHL seasons. 

    Parenteau had a career-high in points last season (67 points) but is a career minus-19 player. Obviously the plus/minus rating is skewed being in New York, but I don't think many teams will consider giving him a lofty contract when he is still unproven.

    He could be a great sign on a budget for a team like the Ottawa Senators

Dustin Penner

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    Dustin Penner is a very intriguing free agent. The 29-year-old winger has never produced big numbers—his highest point total is 63 with the Edmonton Oilers in 2009-10.

    This past season for the Kings, Penner played in 65 games and had just 17 points. He stepped up in the playoff run when the Kings needed another scorer. Penner netted 11 points in 20 games. 

    Despite not having numbers that jump out at you, Penner is an emotional leader and he has experience.

    Two Stanley Cup rings will be a great bargaining chip for Penner in negotiations. 

Martin Brodeur

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    From Penner's two Cup rings to Martin Brodeur's three, experience runs rampant in this free-agent market.

    Brodeur just finished his 20th NHL season. He has three rings and has been to the playoffs in all but two years of his well-decorated, Hall of Fame career.

    His age is the proverbial elephant in the room. Wherever he goes, I'm sure he'll get no more than a one-year deal.

    I don't see him leaving New Jersey, but since he is a free agent, the intrigue and possibility is there.

Justin Schultz

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    From a guy with enough experience to go around the league a few times, to Justin Schultz—just another wrinkle in the 2012 free-agent market.

    Justin Schultz was a 2008 draft pick for the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks never signed him and he went to the University of Wisconsin. 

    Schultz, at most, can sign a two-year entry-level deal.

    The defenseman is 21 years old and could be a great pickup for a team looking to get younger on the blue line.

    Schultz was considered one of the top players not yet in the NHL last season, and will look for a proper fit when he inks his first NHL contract. He can make an immediate impact defensively.

Ryan Suter (and Shea Weber)

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    Ryan Suter is the top defensive free agent on the market.

    He consistently produces around 40 points per season and racks up tons of minutes as part of the Nashville Predators' top defensive pair.

    The interesting thing about this free agent is fellow defenseman Shea Weber's stance. Weber has said that he wants to play alongside Suter.

    The Suter deal could shake up the NHL. If he leaves the Preds, Weber could follow. Whoever signs those two wouldn't have any defensive worries for 30 minutes per game.

    Eyes peeled for this one.  

Zach Parise

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    Zach Parise is in a no-lose situation.

    Parise is the captain of the Eastern Conference champs and the Devils will do everything they can to keep him in New Jersey.

    Parise can market himself to other teams accordingly:

    He is a captain.

    He's 27 years old.

    He's playoff tested.

    He's played in 81-plus games in six of seven NHL seasons.

    410 Points and 37 game-winning goals.

    Whoever signs Parise is getting a star with a bright future for an extended period of time. 

Jiri Hudler

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    On a team with Pavel Datsyuk, Valterri Filppula and Johan Franzen, it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle.

    The Detroit Red Wings have some of the most skilled forwards in the NHL, including Hudler.

    Hudler played in 81 games last season, scored 25 goals and had 25 assists. Even more importantly, Hudler was a 10 plus/minus rating.

    He has the skills to be a first-line center if given the opportunity. With the odds of him resigning in Detroit slim, he will look to find that role on the free-agent market.

    Hudler is 28 years old and will be good for years to come. 

Matt Carle

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    Matt Carle has spent eight seasons in the NHL, the last four with the perennially playoff-bound Philadelphia Flyers.

    Carle played in all 82 games of the last two seasons in Philly and has recorded 35 points or more in each of his last three seasons.

    Carle is a strong defensive prospect for any team looking to improve their blue line. While I don't think he's a first-pair guy, yet, he would be a strong second-pair addition.

    His seven years of playoff experience will help any team come April 2013.

    For the right price, Matt Carle could be the best, most efficient pickup in free agency. 

Alexander Semin

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    Very few people in the NHL have a shot like Washington Capitals left-winger Alexander Semin. The problem is consistency. 

    Semin is one of the biggest individual roller coasters in the NHL. He can score in bunches or go cold for months at a time.

    Washington's No. 13 overall pick in 2002, Semin has been the league's best hot-and-cold player.

    Semin's points production by year:

    2007-73 Up

    2008-42 Down

    2009-79 Up

    2010-84 Up

    2011-54 Down

    2012-54 Down

    Semin has all the tools to be like Evgeni Malkin, Corey Perry, or even, dare I say it, Alexander Ovechkin. 

    Which team will buy the ticket to the Alex Semin amusement park full of thrills, spills and chills?