NHL Free Agency: Power Ranking the 10 Big Names, Where They Went and Fit

Eric SteitzAnalyst IIIJuly 19, 2012

NHL Free Agency: Power Ranking the 10 Big Names, Where They Went and Fit

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    NHL free agency has taken some serious turns in recent weeks.

    Ryan Suter and Zach Parise going to Minnesota together has changed the dynamic of the Western Conference, forcing the Wild into playoff discussion and dropping the Nashville Predators lower on the conference totem pole.

    The Preds could be falling even lower in the hierarchy if their captain Shea Weber leaves and goes to Philadelphia as reports stated on Thursday morning.

    All of these developments and more have headlined what feels like an eternity, though free agency started July 1. I'm not sure anyone wants this offseason to end more than the Nashville Predators and general manager, Brian Poile.

    With all that in mind, there have been some other notable signings this free agency. This is a power ranking of 10 big name free agent signings and how they will fit with their new teams.

10. Justin Schultz (EDM)

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    Justin Schultz was regarded by many to be the top player outside of the NHL in 2012. Schultz, who was drafted by Anaheim in 2008, never signed a contract and went to play collegiate hockey at the University of Wisconsin.

    Schultz, after three seasons at UW, entered NHL free agency and picked a peculiar place to play in the Edmonton Oilers.

    Team in 2012: The 21-year-old will join the Oilers who finished 14th in the Western Conference. Edmonton went 32-40-10.

    Where he could play and who with: If Schultz makes the impact many people think he will make, he could be a first pair defenseman. That would mean he could play with the likes of Ladislav Smid, Jeff Petry or Nick Schultz.  

9. Olli Jokinen (WPG)

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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 Winnipeg Jets makes it lucky number seven.

    The veteran center has nearly 700 points (292 goals, 391 assists) but has been criticized for not buying into various systems, including his most recent in Calgary.

    Jokinen has been to the playoffs just once in his career, but hopes to help the Jets get there in 2013.

     

    Team in 2012: 37-35-10 (84 points, tied with Tampa Bay for 10th in the east)

    Where he could play and with who: Jokinen could be a first-line center, playing alongside rising star Evander Kane. Hopefully Jokinen can develop into a leader for the young gun. He could also play alongside Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little making quite the potent first line for the Jets.

8. Jiri Hudler (CGY)

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    Jiri Hudler has never scored more than 57 points in his seven-year NHL career, but that didn't stop the Calgary Flames from signing a versatile forward in Hudler.

    Hudler is known for his strong hockey IQ and his prowess offensively, but he just doesn't get many opportunities in the loaded Red Wings front line.

    Hudler played in 20 minutes or more in just two games last season and will look to get more minutes, and more opportunities to produce with the Flames.

    Four years and $16 million later, Hudler may have outdone himself on this contract. The Flames have been known to take some risks and this signing is no exception.

    If it plays out, the Flames could get a big reward from Hudler.

    Team in 2012: 37-29-16 (90 points, ninth in Western Conference, five points out of eighth)

    Where he could play and with who: Without Olli Jokinen at center, the Flames lines are wide open. Hudler could be a first-line winger with captain Jarome Iginla.

    I see him fitting more into the second line with Mike Cammalleri and Mikael Backlund at center. Cammalleri and Hudler are both versatile guys that could bounce around the top two lines at various positions.

7. Dustin Penner (LA)

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    Dustin Penner's strong playoff performance in 2012 that helped the Los Angeles Kings to their first Stanley Cup helped him land a spot on the roster again for 2012-13.

    Penner signed a one-year deal with the Kings Sunday worth $3.25 million.

    Penner will hope to carry over the momentum from his playoff production (11 points in 20 games.) The Kings take minimal risk with only a one-year deal.

    If he produces, it's a great signing. If he doesn't, it's only a one-year contract. 

    Regardless of production, the experience of Penner's two Cup rings can make a huge impact in the locker room. Can he repeat with the Kings?

    Kings in 2012: 40-27-15 (95 points, eighth in Western Conference) Stanley Cup Champions

    Where he fits and who he could play with: Same role as last season, it appears. Consistent minutes, but the contract suggests a short leash on a lack of production. 

6. Ryan Suter (MIN)

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    Ryan Suter had 46 points and was plus 15 for the Nashville Predators. He helped bring the Predators to the postseason.

    Now he'll look to bring the same production to a less-than-stellar defense with the Minnesota Wild. The Wild finished 13th last season in goals against. 

    Suter is entering his eighth season in the NHL. He has been a fixture in lineups since he got there.

    Suter has played in at least 70 games in each of his eight seasons and eats up a lot of minutes. 

    His power play prowess (99 career points) will be valuable to any team looking to get that boost with the extra-man, the Wild snagged a good one here.

    Team in 2012: 

    Where he could play and with who: The Minnesota defense is full of questions. They haven't signed any defensemen besides Suter. That would put Suter on the top defensive pair with Marco Scandella.

    I guess it's better to be a big fish in a small pond? 

5. Zach Parise (MIN)

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    The Zach Parise sweepstakes are over. The top free agent in 2012 is now off the market and a member of the Det.... New Jer.... Caroli...... Minnesota Wild?

    A huge signing for the Minnesota Wild that could have very well changed the hierarchy in the Western Conference's Northwest Division. 

    The Wild had the worst offense in the league in 2012, averaging 2.02 goals-for per game. 

    Parise is quite the signing for the Wild. Here is a short list of what he's accomplished so far:

    Captain

    Playoff Experience

    Played in 81 or more games in six of his seven seasons

    37 game-winning goals

    410 points

    and potentially the best years of his career ahead of him.

    His signing turns the Wild offense into a threat on a nightly basis.

    Team in 2012: 35-36-11 (81 points, 12th in Western Conference) 

    Where he fits and who he could play with: Parise can and should be the top-line winger in Minnesota. That puts him with Dany Heatley or Devin Setoguchi and current captain Mikko Koivu. That's one potent line.

    Combined, the three scored 158 points last season. Look out, Northwest.

4. Martin Brodeur (NJD)

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    Martin Brodeur will finish his career as a New Jersey Devil.

    He inked a two-year, $9 million deal.

    No surprise here really. To see Brodeur in a uniform (and potentially end his career) besides the red, black and white would have been devastating.

    Brodeur's three Stanley Cup rings and experience are valuable in free agency. Brodeur even hired an agent.

    I believe that was probably just force a deal to get done faster with the Devils. If that was the case, well done Marty.  

    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.

    Brodeur's numbers were down in 2012, but he is still a great signing for the next two seasons in New Jersey. His .908 save percentage was one of the lowest of his career. His 2.41 goals-against average ties for his third-worst in a season.

    Regardless, his experience, knowledge and leadership can help any team make a postseason run—much like he did with the Devils this past season.

3. P.A. Parenteau (COL)

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    P.A. Parenteau had a lot to gain in this year's free agency. Getting out of Long Island and going to a more complete team can trampoline a talented player into a break-out season.

    Parenteau could have that with his signing in Colorado. The Avalanche are hoping Parenteau can improve on last season's career-high 67 points.

    He's young, with only two NHL seasons under his belt, but could help the Avs get to the coveted playoffs.

    Colorado was close to the eight-seed last season, but struggled down the stretch. The addition of Parenteau to a team with a bunch of young, talented players could be what the Avs need to get over that hump. 

    Avalanche in 2012: 41-35-6 (88 points, seven points out of eighth in the Western Conference)

    Went 3-5-2 in the final 10 games of the season.

    Where he could play and with who: Second Line: Left Wing-Rookie of the Year Gabriel Landeskog, Center- Matt Duchene

    That's a potent line that could be a fixture in the Avalanche line up for years to come. 

2. Shea Weber (PHI-Pending)

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    The express train out of Nashville made another departure early Thursday morning with reports that team captain Shea Weber has signed a 14-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers. Weber, who is a restricted free agent, will make at least $100 million with the contract.

    As a restricted free agent, the Nashville Predators get seven days to match the offer sheet from the Flyers. Nashville has also considered a trade with the Flyers, according to TSN's Darron Dreger

    Here's what's on the table for the Preds:

    If they don't match the offer: The Predators will receive draft pick compensation based on Weber's contract. With the current deal, that would be four first-round draft picks from Philly.

    If they do match the offer: Weber can sign with the Predators. Weber has one more season under contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

    Trade: The Flyers apparently got tired of waiting for the Preds to come up with trade offers and proposed the offer sheet to Weber. If the Preds do trade him, they will receive top value for the 26-year-old defenseman.

    Weber has scored 263 points in his 480 game Predator career. He finished second for the Norris Trophy, which went to Ottawa's Erik Karlsson.

    Updates will be posted as further details and progress is made.

    Team in 2012: Nashville Predators (48-26-8, 104 points, fourth in the Western Conference)

    Where he fits and with who: The Flyers were already fairly loaded at defense with Luke Schenn, Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros and Chris Pronger (sort of.) If this deal goes through, Weber will clearly be a first-pair defenseman.

Honorable Mention Signings

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    Here are some other notable signings:

    Jaromir Jagr signed with the Dallas Stars, a one-year deal worth $4.55 million. Great fit for the crafty veteran who can provide a lot of leadership in Dallas.

    Ray Whitney also signed with Dallas. Another veteran leader added to the Stars who now have a great mix of veterans and young guns. 

    Sami Salo left Vancouver and joined a reloaded defense in Tampa Bay. The Bolts need consistency on the blue line after they finished last in goals against last season. Salo signed a two-year deal with the Bolts.

    Teemu Selanne re-signed with the Anaheim Ducks. Not really a surprise here, but it is good to see Teemu back for another year.

    Mike Green signed a three-year extension with the Washington Capitals. His signing will give teammate John Carlson a blueprint for his contract.

    Notable Trades:

    1. Derek Roy to Dallas. Steve Ott and Adam Pardy to Buffalo.

    2. Dennis Wideman to Calgary. Jordan Henry and 2013 fifth-round pick to Washington.

1. Matt Carle (TBL)

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    Matt Carle is one of the better defensive prospects on the market in 2012. He has found a home in Tampa Bay.

    Carle returned to the Bolts, signing a six-year deal reportedly worth $5.5 million per year

    Carle has played for the San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning already in his seven-year career. Highlight the Lightning on the list, again. 

    Carle is a consistent 30-point producer and hasn't been a negative plus/minus player in a season since 2007. 

    He's a great addition the blue line for the completely reloaded Tampa Bay defense and should provide some stability—anything is an improvement on the league's worst defense last season (3.39 GAPG). 

    Team in 2012: 38-36-8 (84 points, tied for 10th in Eastern Conference)

    Where he could fit and with who: The Bolts have a completely retooled blue line. They have gone from short-handed last season to being overloaded on defense. The addition of Carle and Sami Salo included with Eric Brewer, Mattias Ohlund and Victor Hedman, Tampa could have one of the better defenses in the league with a lot of room to rotate pairings. Stay Tuned.