NHL Free Agency 2013: Top 15 FAs Next Summer and Where They'll Sign

Brad KurtzbergContributor ISeptember 7, 2012

NHL Free Agency 2013: Top 15 FAs Next Summer and Where They'll Sign

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    Sure it's a year away, but free agency is always a big part of the NHL these days, so here's a look at the top 15 potential free agents for the summer of 2013 and where they may be headed.

    Keep in mind that any of these players can re-sign with their present teams before next summer (free agency usually begins July 1st although that could change under the new collective bargaining agreement once it finally gets signed). They can also be dealt at the trade deadline if there is little or no hope of re-signing the player.

    As for possible destinations, I tried to keep it logical, taking team needs into consideration more than salary cap issues and the like.

    I also chose the top 15 based on skill, age, performance and health. I also took into consideration how likely they are to actually go to free agency. On those factors, a player like Daniel Alfredsson, who is a star player, did not make this list because of his age and the fact that if he stays in the NHL, it will almost certainly be with the Senators.

    Feel free to comment and let me know if there's anybody you thought I missed or if you have other possible destinations for these players.

15. Travis Zajac

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    Zajac will be just 28 next summer which would put him right in the prime of his career. The Winnipeg native played in only 15 games last season, so having a healthy 2012-13 will be key for Zajac.

    He is more than capable of a 25-goal, 65-point season if given the right opportunity.

    Possible destinations for Zajac if the Devils don't re-sign him include Philadelphia, Florida and Dallas.

14. Derek Roy

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    Derek Roy has struggled the last two seasons, being injured for much of 2010-11 and just not playing well last year. The Ottawa native is hoping to return to the 70-80 points per season he has reached in the past.

    He is hoping for a fresh start this year in Dallas and if he plays well enough, the Stars may move to sign him to a long-term deal. Roy will be 30 next summer and should have several seasons of productive hockey left in him.

    If he hits the free-agent market, possible destinations include Ottawa, Detroit, Winnipeg and Anaheim.

13. Alex Burrows

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    Burrows has topped the 20-goal mark for the past four seasons, including a career-high 35 goals in 2009-10.

    He will be only 32 next summer, so if he does get to free agency, this is likely Burrows' last chance at a big, long-term contract.

    Expect Burrows to get a lot of attention for his consistent offensive production and gritty style of play. He has been a plus-23 or better in each of the last four seasons as well.

    Possible destinations for Burrows if he doesn't stay in Vancouver include Ottawa, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Jose.

12. Michael Ryder

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    Ryder had a resurgent season last year in Dallas, scoring 35 goals and 62 points in his first season with the Stars.

    The Bonavista, Newfoundland native will be 33 next summer and this will probably be his last chance to sign a longer-term, big-money NHL contract.

    If Ryder doesn't stay in Dallas, other interested teams could be Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Florida, Anaheim and Phoenix.

11. Niklas Backstrom

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    Niklas Backstrom will be 35 by next summer, so a long-term deal for the Finnish goalie may out of the question, but a two- or three-year contract remains a real possibility.

    Backstrom will have a stronger team in front of him this year in Minnesota, and if the Wild show improvement they may want to hold on to the goalie who has provided stability for the franchise over the past six seasons.

    Possible destinations for Backstrom if he becomes an unrestricted free agent include Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia, San Jose and Edmonton.

10. Nathan Horton

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    Horton scored 17 goals in just 46 games last season before a concussion ended his season prematurely.

    If he's healthy, the Welland, Ontario native is capable of scoring goals in bunches and could reach 30 or even 35 goals under the right circumstances.

    Prior to last season, Horton topped the 20-goal mark for six straight seasons including a career-high 31 in 2006-07.

    Horton may be better off leaving Boston if he is only interested in individual statistics as the Bruins like to roll four lines and he could get more ice time playing elsewhere.

    Teams that may be interested in Horton if he does become a free agent include Winnipeg, Philadelphia, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Phoenix and the Rangers.

9. Kari Lehtonen

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    Finnish netminder Kari Lehtonen had a good year for the Stars last year, lowering his GAA to 2.33 and raising his save percentage to .921.

    Lehtonen will be 30 next summer and in the prime of his career, which has been a bit uneven so far since he joined the Thrashers full-time in 2005-06.

    Lehtonen has shown he can play a lot of games and not wear down over the course of the season.The Stars may move to keep him if they can, assuming he plays well again this coming season.

    Among the teams who may be interested in Lehtonen are Toronto, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Detroit.

8. Stephen Weiss

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    Stephen Weiss has been the most consistent player on the Florida Panthers lately, topping the 20-goal mark for the past three straight seasons.

    Weiss will be 30 next summer, right in the middle of his prime years. The Toronto native may seek a new home where hockey has a higher profile or he may wish to continue building the sport in south Florida.

    If the Panthers don't elect to keep Weiss, other possible destinations include Minnesota, Winnipeg, Calgary, Philadelphia and Ottawa.

7. Mike Smith

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    Mike Smith was the biggest reason the Phoenix Coyotes won their first Pacific Division title and advanced all the way to the Western Conference Final.

    His .930 save percentage and 2.21 GAA helped the Coyotes succeed despite being ranked 18th in goals scored in the league.

    The Coyotes would be foolish to let their best player go, but the team's uncertain ownership situation and future in Phoenix may not allow them to keep him in the desert.

    Some teams that may be interested in the Kingston, Ontario, native if he hits the open market include Dallas, Detroit, Colorado, Toronto, Edmonton, Chicago and San Jose.

6. Tim Thomas

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    Tim Thomas will be an interesting case assuming he decides to continue his NHL career in 2013.

    Thomas has already announced he will sit out the coming season, so he will have had a year off before signing a new contract. The Flint, Michigan, native will be 39 next summer, but while he may not have a lot of years left in his career, how often does a Stanley Cup-winning goalie become available in free agency so soon after winning a title?

    Thomas is almost certainly leaving Boston. Teams like Tampa Bay, Toronto, Ottawa, San Jose and Chicago may be possible destinations for Thomas.

5. Jarome Iginla

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    Jarome Iginla has been the Flames' captain, their best player and the face of the franchise for a long time now.

    Unfortunately for the Flames, they have not made the playoffs for the last three years and Iginla will be turning 36 next July 1st.

    If the Flames decide to trade or not re-sign their captain, he would still have plenty of suitors.  He has scored more than 30 goals in each of the past 11 seasons and has great leadership qualities.

    Teams that may be interested in Iginla would include the Rangers, Flyers, Penguins, Red Wings, Oilers, Sharks and Ducks.

4. Alexander Semin

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    Semin signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes this summer, so unless GM Jim Rutherford signs the Russian sniper to another deal, he will hit the free-agent market again next summer at the age of 29.

    Semin has unquestionable talent, but his play hasn't always lived up to his abilities.

    A lot will depend on how Semin does in Carolina. If he does well, he will have plenty of suitors. It is also possible Semin decides to return home and play in Russia's KHL.

    If he stays in the NHL, possible suitors for Semin would include Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, the Rangers, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

3. Jimmy Howard

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    Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard doesn't always get the acclaim and recognition other goalies get, but say what you want about him, he wins hockey games. He has won 35 or more games in each of the last three seasons in Detroit.

    Howard will be 29 next summer which places the former University of Maine star in the prime of his career.

    If the Red Wings choose to go in another direction in net, possible new homes for Howard would include Toronto, Chicago, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Columbus and Phoenix.

2. Ryan Getzlaf

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    Like teammate Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf will be in the prime of his career next summer at the age of 28 and will garner plenty of attention if he hits the free-agent market.

    Getzlaf is a great setup man who had 50 or more assists in four straight seasons before "slumping" to 46 last season. If he has a strong 2012-13, he can write his own ticket in free agency.

    Detroit, the Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto, Montreal and Boston may be interested in Getzlaf's services if he hits the open market.

1. Corey Perry

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    Big Corey Perry will be 28 next summer and his size, skills and age will help make him the most sought-after free agent of 2013 if the Ducks don't re-sign the Peterborough, Ontario native.

    Perry scored 37 goals last season and it was considered an "off" year for the 6'3", 210-pound winger. He has scored as many as 50 goals and 98 points in a season.

    Possible destinations for Perry would include the Rangers, San Jose, Toronto, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Detroit.