2012 NHL Free Agents: Where Each of the Top 25 Remaining Free Agents Will Sign

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IJuly 19, 2012

2012 NHL Free Agents: Where Each of the Top 25 Remaining Free Agents Will Sign

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    Almost three weeks have passed since the opening of NHL free agency, but by the looks of the remaining market, it's nearly impossible to tell.

    Shane Doan.

    Pavel Kubina.

    Alex Semin.

    Shea Weber.

    Among the hoards of the undesired remain a surprisingly large number of top-tier stars and sought-after items, setting up a late summer gold rush of interestingly large proportions.

    How do the best remaining free agents all sort out, and where will they each eventually end up? Our complete and in-depth rankings and projections fall on the coming slides.

25. Milan Jurcina

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    Projected Destination: Nashville Predators

    With only four defensemen currently signed on one-way contracts, the Predators need blueliners in a hurry.

    Milan Jurcina, 29, could help fill out the team's bottom pair. The massive 6'4", 245-pound rearguard has never scored more than six goals in a season and posted a horrific minus-34 rating for the Islanders last year, but will bring a big, hard-hitting body—Jurcina has registered 125 and 173 hits in each of the last two seasons, respectively, to Nashville's young defensive cast.

24. Tom Kostopoulos

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    Projected Destination: Carolina Hurricanes

    The Carolina Hurricanes have a thing for bringing back formerly-departed veterans.

    They did it with Erik Cole. They did it with Joe Corvo. And now they may well do it with Tom Kostopoulos.

    The 33-year-old, who was traded from Carolina to Calgary in fall 2010, will help to add the fourth-line grit that the 'Canes have been looking for. Kostopoulos tallied 12 points and 57 penalty minutes last season for the Flames while averaging 12:32 of ice time per night.

23. Dan Ellis

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    Projected Destination: Carolina Hurricanes

    With veteran backup Brian Boucher—coming off of a horrific 2011-12 campaign—out until at least November with shoulder surgery, the Hurricanes could be well-served by dumping Boucher for a conditional seventh-round pick and starting anew at the backup position.

    Recently re-signed 26-year-old Justin Peters could fill the void, but with little depth at the AHL level as well, keeping Peters with AHL Charlotte and signing UFA Dan Ellis, 32, could be a smarter move.

    Ellis was hampered by injuries and posted only a 1-5 record with Anaheim last season, but the former Predators' dual-starter has a solid 72-57-15 career record and .908 career save percentage.

22. Daniel Winnik

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    Projected Destination: Ottawa Senators

    With only four forwards over the age of 26, the Ottawa Senators could benefit from a bit more experience in their youngster-laden bottom-six group of forwards.

    Solid 6'2" winger Daniel Winnik, 27, could bring more of that much-needed grit and experience the Sens need. The former Coyotes, Avalanche and Sharks fourth-liner has scored 19, 26 and 23 points each of the last three seasons and has compiled 366 NHL appearances over his still-young career.

21. Alex Auld

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    Projected Destination: Los Angeles Kings

    With the odds of current backup Jonathan Bernier staying in Los Angeles looking slimmer and slimmer, the Kings could soon be in need of a second-string goalie to fill in behind Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick.

    Veteran Alex Auld, 31, could fill the void. The longtime backup, who has made $1 million each of the last four seasons, has played for a whopping nine teams over the last five years and proved his worth as a an experienced fill-in.

    Despite putting up poor numbers (3.35 GAA and .884 save percentage) in 14 appearances for Ottawa last season, Auld would be a cheap and worthwhile addition to the Kings' goaltending unit.

20. Tomas Holmstrom

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    Projected Destination: Edmonton Oilers

    Sixteen-year Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom, 39, wants to return to Detroit again, but Wings' GM Ken Holland isn't biting.

    One team that may consider a Holmstrom's age is the Edmonton Oilers, however. Per TheHockeyChat via Twitter:

    Just spoke to a source and can #CONFIRM that the Edm #Oilers are one of the teams who offered Holmstrom a contract. Its 1YR/$1MIL

    — The Hockey Chat (@TheHockeyChat) July 17, 2012

    Edmonton already has 11 NHL forwards under contract and three more at RFA status, but it would love to make room Holmstrom's 1,026 games of league experience. The former 10th-round pick can also contribute a bit offensively, having registered 11 goals and 13 assists in 74 games last season.

19. Gilbert Brule

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    Projected Destination: Columbus Blue Jackets

    In a career of disappointment stands a lone productive season—a 17-goal, 37-point explosion for Edmonton in 2009-10—for former sixth-overall pick Gilbert Brule.

    And after failing to be dealt a qualifying offer from Phoenix back in June, Brule is having a tough time finding a taker on the UFA market.

    However, the injury-prone center, who has missed over half of the last two seasons' worth of games, is still only 25 and does possess the skill that earned him such high praise as a prospect seven years ago.

    With the Blue Jackets trying everything they can to add youthful talent to their system, Brule could receive another shot at stardom in Columbus.

18. Brett Clark

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    Projected Destination: St. Louis Blues

    Late-blooming defenseman Brett Clark took a huge step back in 2011-12, as his point total dropped more than half from 2010-11 (31 points to 15 points) and his plus-minus rating slipped from plus-two to minus-26.

    However, Clark is still relatively fresh for age 35—his rookie year was only 2005-06—and is a good puck-mover and blue-line threat for a bottom-pair rearguard. 

    The St. Louis Blues, with only three defensemen on one-way contracts following Carlo Colaiacovo's departure, could use Clark to bring time-tested experience and depth to their defensive corps.

17. Jochen Hecht

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    Projected Destination: New Jersey Devils

    New Jersey's Carter-Bernier-Gionta line came to the forefront in the 2012 playoffs, but the Devils would appreciate another bottom-six forward with more second-line upside than those three.

    Rollercoaster ride Jochen Hecht, just two years removed from 21-goal, 42-point season, appeared in only 22 games last season for Buffalo and tallied just four goals and eight points. However, Hecht, 35, is an eight-time 40-point scorer and is a serviceable mid-line winger when he can avoid concussions.

    He'd be a versatile fit with the Devils.

16. Kurtis Foster

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    Projected Destination: Chicago Blackhawks

    Chicago's 26th-ranked power play last season was a big reason why the 'Hawks fell short down the stretch, and, so far, the team has done little to improve that man-advantage unit for next year.

    Kurtis Foster, subpar by defensive standards but excellent along the blue line, could help solve the issue. The 30-year-old is a former 42-point scorer with an injury-prone, but fairly productive, track record.

    The Blackhawks aren't exactly depth-lacking on 'D', but with washed-up bottom-pairing rearguards Johnny Oduya, Steve Montador and Sheldon Brookbank not adding much offensive skill to the unit, Foster could step in as a potential seventh defenseman and add a strong quarterbacking presence to Chicago's 'PP' corps.

15. Dominic Moore

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    Projected Destination: Anaheim Ducks

    Despite rumors that personal conflicts may end Dominic Moore's career this summer (via ESPN), the 31-year-old center could still draw a pretty penny if he does re-enter the market.

    Alongside fellow veteran Kristian Huselius (see slide No. 14), Moore—who declined from 18 to a mere four goals in 2011-12 but still managed 25 points and 52 hits—would help fill out the Ducks' center depth behind Ryan Getzlaf and Saku Koivu.

    From where Anaheim's roster currently stands, a trio of Moore, Huselius and Andrew Cogliano would be a third line from heaven.

14. Jaroslav Spacek

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    Projected Destination: Ottawa Senators

    After a respectable 34-game stint with Carolina last season following his trade from Montreal, Jaroslav Spacek is finding a new home hard to come by on the open market.

    The 38-year-old showed signs of aging with the Canadiens, but proved he still has worth as a bottom-four defenseman in Raleigh, scoring five goals, 12 points and a plus-four rating.

    Spacek could soon land with former rival Ottawa, as the Sens' lack of defensive depth could earn Spacek a job as a third-pairing blueliner and power-play presence in Canada's capital.

13. Kristian Huselius

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    Projected Destination: Anaheim Ducks

    Seven-time 20-goal scorer Kristian Huselius's career has gone downhill quickly—the now-33-year-old has appeared in just 39 games over the last two seasons for Columbus—but Huselius's skill and prior statistics should be enough to land him an NHL job sometime this summer.

    Beyond star scorers Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne, the Ducks' group of reputable mid-line forwards is utterly empty. For a cheap price, Huselius could step into Anaheim as a third-line forward with second-line upside—after all, the Swedish winger did score 20 goals and 63 points as recently as 2009-10.

12. Daymond Langkow

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    Projected Destination: New York Islanders

    In recent years, the New York Islanders have become the go-to destination for washed-up former stars—Evgeni Nabokov in spring 2011, Marty Reasoner in summer 2011, Brad Boyes earlier this month, and now, potentially, Daymond Langkow.

    Langkow, 35, has hit the 20-goal plateau seven times prior over his career, but played just four games in 2010-11 and posted his worst campaign since 1999 this past season. Langkow registered only 11 goals, 19 helpers and a dismal 44.4 faceoff percentage.

    However, his experience would be welcomed on Long Island and Langkow would get a second-line opportunity that he couldn't find elsewhere.

11. Matt Gilroy

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    Projected Destination: New York Islanders

    A miserable 27th-ranked defense held the Islanders back from playoff contention last year, and while veteran rearguard Lubomir Visnovsky's addition should prove helpful, he won't solve the problem alone.

    Former Rangers, Senators and Lightning defenseman Matt Gilroy has proven his usefulness as a disciplined depth player with shot-blocking skills—having tallied 36 assists, 214 blocked shots, a plus-seven rating and only 55 penalty minutes over his three-year career to date—and, at 27, is about as young as a UFA can be. 

    He'd be a smart and reliable signing for the Islanders this summer.

10. Scott Hannan

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    Projected Destination: Dallas Stars

    Behind star defensemen Alex Goligoski, the Dallas Stars' lack of defensive depth is astounding—and July 1st signing Aaron Rome isn't going to fill that hole by himself.

    Career second-pairing defensive rearguard Scott Hannan, still just 33, would be a much better addition. Hannan has never scored more than six goals in a season and tallied just two strikes and 10 helpers with Calgary last season, but the 13-year vet's skills in his own end are as good as any player left unsigned at this point.

    Alongside aging Stephane Robidas, Hannan could bring much-needed consistency to the Stars' 'D' and help to mentor youngsters Philip Larsen, Brendan Dillon and Mark Fistric.

9. Michal Rozsival

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    Projected Destination: Detroit Red Wings

    The consecutive-year retirements of Brian Rafalski (2011) and Niklas Lidstrom (2012) have decimated the once-mighty Red Wings' defense, and don't expect recently re-signed Kyle Quincey to be the one-step fix (via NHL.com).

    Michal Rozsival's career has fallen sharply since his top-pairing days with the Rangers—having missed 127 games over the last three years to injury—but the now-33-year-old is a former 40-point scorer and fearless shot-blocker. He'd add a big second-pairing body to Detroit's rear end.

8. Jason Arnott

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    Projected Destination: Tampa Bay Lightning

    Tampa Bay's wealth of fourth-line forwards could fill an entire minor-league team's roster, but the Bolts need more quality mid-line talent if they want to round out their offensive cast.

    Thirty-seven-year-old Jason Arnott isn't the dominant top-six scorer he used to be anymore, but he's still good for a decent point total—exemplified by his surprising 17 goals and 34 points in 2011-12 with St. Louis—and reputable play in his own end. 

    The Lightning have stayed in the shadows this offseason, but Arnott's acquisition may be the sizable splash they've been looking for.

7. Petr Sykora

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    Projected Destination: New Jersey Devils

    Petr Sykora's 2011-12 campaign was something of a fairytale—after touring Europe for almost three years, Sykora, now 35, returned to the NHL for the first full season since 2008-09 and put up a remarkable 21 goals and 44 points.

    Following his run with the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals, Sykora has tested the free-agent market for almost three weeks and found few takers. Now it's time for Sykora to return home—and with New Jersey longing for wingers following Zach Parise's departure, they'll most certainly welcome him back.

6. Carlo Colaiacovo

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    Projected Destination: Nashville Predators

    With Ryan Suter gone and TSN's Darren Dreger reporting Shea Weber is gone too, the Nashville Predators could use another viable top-four defenseman or two, soon.

    Unheralded 'D'-man Carlo Colaiacovo would be a fantastic under-the-radar solution. Our favorite remaining UFA for the money, Colaiacovo is only 29 has been a part of a top-notch Blues' defense for four straight years.

    The 6'1" rearguard has never stayed healthy for more than 67 games in a season over his career, but Colaiacovo hasn't missed more than 20 games in a single year since his arrival in St. Louis and is always good for 20 assists, 70 hits and 80 blocked shots every year.

    He'd be a brilliant signing for Nashville.

5. Pavel Kubina

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    Projected Destination: Detroit Red Wings

    It wasn't too long ago that Pavel Kubina, 35, was regarded as one of the best power-play quarterbacks in the league—after all, Kubina has tallied 11 or more goals five times in his career, including a whopping 17 for Tampa Bay in 2002-03, and racked up 54 man-advantage strikes alone since 1997.

    Now Kubina is 35, though, and coming off of a mere three-goal, 15-point campaign with the Lightning and Flyers. Nonetheless, he still offers value as puck-moving defenseman and 17- or 18-minutes-per-night filler.

    The Red Wings, already seeking hard-hitting Michal Rozsival (see slide no. 18), could use Kubina as a bottom-pair option and jumpstart to their poor 22nd-ranked power play.

4. Andrei Kostitsyn

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    Projected Destination: St. Louis Blues

    Per a report by The Fourth Period:

    As much as the St. Louis Blues are looking to add another defenseman to their backend, the team is also in the market for a second-line scorer. TFP has learned the Blues have tried to add extra scoring depth via free agency last week...[they] pitched an offer to center Olli Jokinen, but came up short.

    The Blues are not necessarily looking to add a second-line pivot, but could aim to acquire another right winger.

    Andrei Kostitsyn, largely overshadowed on the remaining forwards market up until now, fills the hole perfectly.

    Kostitsyn, 27, has hit the 20-goal three times previously and has always been a sure bet to put up 30 to 40 points throughout his career. The former 10th overall pick recorded 16 goals and 36 points in 72 games for Montreal and Nashville last season.

3. Alexander Semin

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    Projected Destination: Carolina Hurricanes

    The length of Alexander Semin's free agency saga has become comical, but the 28-year-old is still a talented first-line talent with difference-making potential.

    That's exactly what the Carolina Hurricanes, now loaded with both Eric and Jordan Staal on their first line, have been looking for.  Semin offers the finesse-style skating and high-speed offensive skill that the 'Canes were looking for when targeting Zach Parise, and has, over his career, actually averaged more points per game (0.870) than the now-Wild forward has (0.817).

    The 6'2", 209-pound winger put up 54 points each of the last two seasons—certainly decent totals for a top-six forward—but Semin, 28, hasn't yet replicated his jaw-dropping 79- and 84-point campaigns of 2008-09 and 2009-10, respectively.

    'Canes GM Jim Rutherford has expressed tentative interest in Semin, but if the Hurricanes are serious about landing another top-six winger, he's clearly the easiest—and best—fix.

    For more on the teams pursuing Semin, read our in-depth analysis slideshow here.

2. Shane Doan

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    Projected Destination: Phoenix Coyotes

    Current Coyotes captain and 17-year franchise member Shane Doan would almost certainly receive more money elsewhere, it's becoming more and more evident that Doan's heart is set on staying in Phoenix.

    Per Paola Boivin of The Arizona Republic, who interviewed Doan's agent, Terry Boss, last week:

    "It's heartbreaking for [Shane]," Boss said. "Heartbreaking."

    Bross reiterated Doan wants to stay with the Coyotes. He loves it here, his family loves it here and he has developed a profound connection with the organization.

    "He's such a loyal guy," Bross said. "He views the team like it's his own franchise, from the equipment manager to the trainer to the people taking tickets."

    The solid 6'2", 228-lb. winger has missed only 38 games over the last 13 straight seasons, and has scored at least 18 goals and 49 points every season since 1999; over the past dozen years, he's averaged 25 goals and 60 points per season.

    Ownership turbulence and league-worst attendance or not, Doan is going to stay in Phoenix for the rest of his career.

1. Shea Weber

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    Projected Destination: Nashville Predators

    RFA Shea Weber has signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyers.

    The stunning news—RFA offer sheets have become almost unheard of in the modern-day NHL—has set up a franchise-defining decision for the Nashville Predators, who have a week to either match the cash-laden contract or let their captain and team icon tragically walk away.

    Bleacher Report's Trent Reinsmith explains the Preds' dilemma:

    The Predators have been put in a very sticky position. The team has never been one of the deep-pocket hockey clubs, and a contract of 14 years for over $100 million may be tough for ownership to swallow. At the same time, the team just watched their other star defenseman, Ryan Suter, walk away as an unrestricted free agent, leaving a gaping hole on the blue line.

    The Predators have a lot to think about here. The knee-jerk reaction would be that this is a slam-dunk situation, but the reality is that the business side of things may prevent them from matching the offer.

    If Nashville chooses not to match, they will receive some serious compensation for Weber's departure, though. From NHL.com: 

    If the Predators opt not to [match], it is believed they will receive a package of four first-round draft picks from the Flyers, although compensation depends on the annual average value of the contract. The Flyers' first-round pick has been no higher than No. 20 in each of the past four drafts.

    For now, the Preds' upcoming decision is utterly impossible to call. But keep this mind—in the last 15 years of NHL free agency, an RFA offer sheet has not been matched only once (Dustin Penner with Edmonton in 2007).

    In the end, Shea Weber will never be anything but a Nashville Predator.