NHL Free Agents: 4 Faces Guaranteed to Struggle in Their New Places

Jeremy FuchsCorrespondent IIIDecember 14, 2012

NHL Free Agents: 4 Faces Guaranteed to Struggle in Their New Places

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    Every off-season, countless players change teams. They come in with big expectations, with fans hoping that they will solve whatever ails the team. The ownership of the team hopes the new player will bring them to the promise land.

    And every year, countless players fail to meet expectations. Names like Ilya Bryzgalov and Ville Leino come to mind from last year.

    Which players in this year's class will fail to meet expectations?

    Read on to find out. 

Zach Parise

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    Zach Parise returned home to Minnesota to sign a 13-year, $96 million deal with the Minnesota Wild. Parise had another big year last season, scoring 31 goals and adding 38 assists. In the playoffs, Parise put up eight goals and seven assists in 24 games.

    It's a big loss for the New Jersey Devils and a huge coup for the Wild. Combined with Ryan Suter, Parise should help the Wild become a perennial playoff contender.

    And while we have no doubt that Parise will continue to put numbers, it will never be enough. Why? Because for over $7 million per year, nothing short of a Stanley Cup will be worth it. 

    And it's not like Parise is the type of player who can carry a team to the promised land. He's very good, but he's not Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.

    The Wild will probably never win a Stanley Cup until they get better goaltending and defensemen. Parise will put up numbers, but it won't be enough.

    So the Wild will, for at least the time being, become a contender, but not quite at the level of the elite. And it's going to be hard to justify spending $96 million on Parise and another $98 million on Ryan Suter without having some hardware to show for it. For the foreseeable future, that goal might be too hard to reach.

Brad Stuart

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    Brad Stuart signed a three-year, $10.8 million deal with the San Jose Sharks. 

    Before coming to Detroit for good in 2008, Stuart was a journeyman defenseman who never lived up to his first-round billing. In Detroit, however, he found a niche as a solid, top-four defenseman.

    Why did it take Stuart so long? Detroit has a structure which seems to make stars out of anyone. 

    And in fact, Stuart, who was originally drafted by San Jose, struggled in his early years with the Sharks. He'd have years with some big numbers, and then some years without. 

    What can we expect from Stuart? At 33, he's not getting any younger. In addition, it's hard to imagine him playing huge minutes, now that he's behind Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Douglas Murray and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. He might carve out a third-pair role.

    Stuart won't embarrass the Sharks, but he will certainly not live up to the $3.6 million cap hit. 

Jiri Hudler

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    Jiri Hudler has been a solid player for some time, and the Calgary Flames rewarded him with a four-year, $16 million contract.

    Not bad for a player who scored 25 goals and 25 assists last season. However, that is a bit suspicious, given that the year before, he scored only 10 goals.

    Was Hudler's performance last season the product of being in a contract year? Did Hudler see green, and did that help him find the back of the net a bit more? Perhaps, although it is impossible to tell.

    While the Flames certainly thought last season was sustainable, there are reasons to doubt that. Hudler had about 19 percent of his shots hit the net last year—a remarkable number. However, it is about five points more than his previous career high. 

    Additionally, if Hudler had hit the net with a 14 percent accuracy rate, he would have only scored 19 goals, according to the Sporting News. 

    He's not the best on the puck, and won't have Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg to dish him the biscuit. 

    Hudler is expected to be one of the other options alongside Jarome Iginla, the one to take some of the pressure off the Flames' captain. But Hudler is too inconsistent and hasn't put up two great seasons in a row. Expecting him to put up consistently big numbers is not the best idea.

    Hudler may struggle one year, and break out the next. But he won't be a consistent producer, and certainly won't live up to the hefty contract he signed. 

Brandon Prust

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    Brandon Prust signed a four-year, $10 million deal with the Montreal Canadiens. 

    The checking winger was a key cog in the New York Rangers' run to the Eastern Conference Finals. He killed penalties, threw his body around, dropped the gloves, and did whatever was needed.

    He is not, however, a huge offensive threat. He scored five goals last year and added 12 assists. He will not play on the power play, and will struggle playing a top-six role.

    The Canadiens, however, paid him big-time money. While Prust will continue as a valuable third liner, he will not help the Canadiens offensive woes. Montreal had the 20th-ranked offense last year, scoring 2.52 goals per game. They had the 28th-ranked power play. Prust will not help that improve.

    Prust will add needed toughness, but because the Canadiens did nothing else to upgrade their roster, he will not live up to expectations, nor will he help the Habs improve their biggest problem—offense.