2012 NHL Free Agents: 25 Biggest Free Agents Set to Hit the Market This Summer

Nicholas Goss@@NicholasGoss35Correspondent IMarch 5, 2012

2012 NHL Free Agents: 25 Biggest Free Agents Set to Hit the Market This Summer

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    The 2012 NHL free-agent class is absolutely loaded with amazing talent at every position.

    Whether you need a star winger such as Zach Parise or a shutdown defenseman such as Ryan Suter, there's a player at each position that will be available in the summer to make your team stronger.

    Let's look at the 25 best free agents set to hit the market this summer.

    Note: Restricted free agents who will almost certainly re-sign with their current teams, such as Matt Duchene of the Colorado Avalanche, were omitted from this list.

Zach Parise

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    Zach Parise will be one of the most coveted free agents this summer, and as a 27-year-old player with 35-to-40-goal potential in the prime of his career, it's not hard to imagine why many teams in the NHL will have interest in signing him.

    The New Jersey Devils will hope they can re-sign him, but financial issues the club is facing may prevent them from keeping him. Expect Parise to get at least $7 million per season on the open market come July.

Ryan Suter

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    Nashville Predators star Ryan Suter is an unrestricted free agent this summer and will be the top defenseman on the open market.

    Suter is tremendous in his own end and is a shutdown defenseman capable of containing the best offensive talents on opposing teams.

    His physical style of play and his positional awareness on the ice make him a reliable player who can log a ton of minutes.

    With many teams looking for a No. 1 franchise defenseman, Suter will have no problem finding teams interested in paying him huge money.

Alexander Semin

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    Alexander Semin is a very talented offensive player with good speed and an accurate shot. He's a proven goal scorer and is on pace to reach at least 20 goals this year despite battling injuries.

    As a player with 60-to-80-point potential in the prime of his career, Semin will be targeted by many teams who miss out on signing Zach Parise.

Shea Weber

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    Shea Weber is an incredibly gifted defenseman who dominates at both ends of the ice for the Nashville Predators.

    His strong, physical play makes him a nightmare to play against in the defensive zone, and he's quite effective on the power play with his puck-moving skills and thunderous slap shot from the point.

    Weber is arguably the best defenseman in hockey and might leave Nashville as a restricted free agent if the team cannot sign both him and teammate Ryan Suter.

Chris Kelly

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    Chris Kelly is one of the most underrated players in the NHL and excels at both ends of the ice. He has the ability to score goals and play on the top line.

    He's a versatile player and he is very good defensively. As a talented two-way player with leadership skills and playoff experience, the Bruins will have some competition to sign Kelly in the summer.

Mikhail Grabovski

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    Mikhail Grabovski is a solid two-way player who can play with all different kinds of wingers and is also consistently productive.

    He's capable of scoring 30 goals with at least 30 assists for several more seasons and is a talented playmaker with his exquisite passing skills.

    Expect Grabovski to receive at least $5 million per season on his next contract, whether it's from the Maple Leafs or another team.

Brad Stuart

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    Brad Stuart is a veteran defenseman who excels in his own end and is a tremendous leader. After spending several seasons in Detroit, I cannot imagine him leaving, especially if Nicklas Lidstrom decides to retire.

    Stuart still has a few more seasons left as a top-two pairing defenseman.

Pavel Kubina

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    Pavel Kubina was acquired by the Philadelphia Flyers before the trade deadline to help fill the void created by Chris Pronger and his season-ending injury.

    Kubina is a veteran player with lots of experience and isn't a liability at either end of the ice. If he decides not to re-sign with the Flyers and hit the open market, expect many of the top contenders to be interested in signing him.

Nicklas Grossman

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    Nicklas Grossman is another defenseman that the Philadelphia Flyers acquired before the trade deadline. I think they would rather sign Kubina to an extension if possible, so it's likely that Grossman becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer.

    Even though he has a history of some injuries, when he's healthy, he's a very reliable defenseman.

Shane Doan

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    Shane Doan is loved by Phoenix Coyotes fans because of his loyalty to the team through difficult times and his consistently strong offensive play.

    He's a leader and a role model for his community. However, he's never won a Stanley Cup, and with not many years remaining in his career, Doan might consider signing with a Stanley Cup contender as an unrestricted free agent in July.

Ray Whitney

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    Ray Whitney is still a reliable goal scorer and on a team with a ton of offensive talent, he could score 30 to 40 goals at age 40.

    Whitney's ability to score goals as well as create quality scoring chances for his teammates will make him a valuable player on the free-agent market.

    With the Phoenix Coyotes not having a lot of money to spend on free agents, I would expect Whitney to sign with a contender that can offer him the same or more money than Phoenix can.

Martin Brodeur

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    Martin Brodeur is one of the greatest goalies of all time, but he is an unrestricted free agent this summer. If he wants to play another year, it’s likely he will remain with the New Jersey Devils.

    However, if a team desperate for goaltending help—like the Toronto Maple Leafs—makes him an enormous offer, he would seriously have to think about it.

Chris Stewart

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    Chris Stewart is a young power forward who can score goals and bring a physical presence to a team lacking size on their top two lines. His offensive game is still developing, but since he won't put up jaw-dropping stats this season, he could be an under-the-radar player in free agency this summer.

    He's a restricted free agent and the Blues will likely try to re-sign him, but they won't overpay to keep him when the team has some talented prospects ready to make the jump to the NHL.

Mike Green

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    Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green is a tremendous offensive player thanks to his ability to run a power play and his booming slap shot from the point.

    He would immediately upgrade a team’s offense from the blue line, and he's not a liability on the defensive end despite getting beat a little more often than his coaches would like.

    He’s not worth more than $5 million per season, especially given his history of injuries, but a team desperate for an offensive defenseman will likely overpay to sign him.

Dustin Penner

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    Dustin Penner was acquired by the Los Angeles Kings last season to bring them some much-needed goal scoring on their top two lines, but Penner has been a complete disaster with the Kings instead.

    As a Kings player, he has just 19 points in 67 games. A change of scenery will benefit Penner since he still has some offensive skills, and you can bet some team will give him a fresh start in the summer.

Matt Carle

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    Matt Carle is an unrestricted free agent this summer and although he is making just under $3.5 million this season, a team needing a tall, strong defenseman will likely offer him anywhere from $4-5 million in the offseason.

    That's too high of a price for the Philadelphia Flyers to pay, especially when they have to re-sign Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman.

Cory Schneider

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    The Vancouver Canucks are paying starting goaltender Roberto Luongo $5.3 million into the next decade and have one of the best AHL goalies, Eddie Lack, ready to play in the NHL. 

    Backup goaltender Cory Schneider is ready to be a No. 1 goalie at the NHL level, and the composure he shows in big games is quite remarkable. Is it worth it to the Canucks to pay anywhere from $8-10 million to goalies when that's a huge chunk of the salary cap on one position?

    Teams might be willing to make an offer to Schneider even though he's a restricted free agent because the Canucks may not be able to afford him.

PK Subban

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    Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban is one of the most talented players in the league. The silky-smooth skating defenseman is an offensive machine, and he's capable of scoring goals as well as quarterbacking the power play to perfection.

    His defensive game is still developing, but by no means is he a liability in his own zone. With the Canadiens having to sign goaltender Carey Price to a massive contract this summer, Subban might find himself on a different team next season.

    However, that scenario is unlikely since Subban is a franchise player.

Jamie Langenbrunner

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    Jamie Langenbrunner is one of those veteran players who brings great leadership and lots of playoff experience to any team he plays for.

    He's an unrestricted free agent in the summer and could be the final piece of many teams' championship puzzle. Langenbrunner is still a reliable two-way player and can play on the second or third line, in addition to the penalty kill.

Evgeni Nabokov

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    Although the New York Islanders and starting goaltender Evgeni Nabokov are working on a contract extension, his great playoff experience will make him a sought-after player if he hits the free-agent market.

    Nabokov still has many years left as a top-tier goaltender and has shown that he can excel for one of the league's elite teams and one in a rebuilding phase.

    Nabokov could make well over $4 million on the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

Sami Salo

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    Veteran defenseman Sami Salo is a true professional and a reliable player in the defensive zone. He also is a quality skater and can excel on the power play. 

    If he chooses not to re-sign with the Vancouver Canucks, a lot of contending teams will be after him to play on one of the top two defensive pairings.

Brad Boyes

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    After some very mediocre seasons since he scored 43 goals for the St. Louis Blues in 2008, Brad Boyes is set to hit the free-agent market because he has been a disaster with the Buffalo Sabres.

    Boyes won't make $4 million like he is now when he signs a new contract in the summer, but there will be many teams willing to take a chance on him and hope that a change of scenery will benefit him. Boyes still has the ability to be a quality goal scorer despite his subpar performance the last couple years.

Gregory Campbell

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    Gregory Campbell arrived in Boston as part of the trade that brought Nathan Horton to the Bruins, but the fourth-line center has been just as effective in many ways as Horton has.

    Campbell does a little bit of everything for the Bruins, including goal scoring, fighting, penalty killing and smart defensive play.

    He's the perfect fourth-line player and is extremely underrated. The Bruins will likely re-sign him but as an unrestricted free agent.

    Campbell may want to test the open market since playing in Boston has helped him gain a little more national recognition.

Dominic Moore

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    The San Jose Sharks traded for Dominic Moore from the Tampa Bay Lightning just before the deadline to bring some goal scoring and veteran leadership to their team. His playoff experience will also help the Sharks this postseason.

    As an unrestricted free agent, Moore will be an inexpensive addition for a team needing another two-way veteran for the playoffs.

Olli Jokinen

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    Olli Jokinen is having an awesome season with the Calgary Flames and is leading the team with 53 points on 20 goals and 33 assists. 

    Jokinen is a talented playmaker who can create his own offense and goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates. His veteran leadership and offensive talents will make him a sought-after free agent this summer.

    At age 33, Jokinen is still capable of putting up 50 or more points for several more seasons.

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