2012 NHL Free Agents: Pittsburgh Penguins' Ideal Targets

Allan Smith@@akarl_smithContributor IIIJune 30, 2012

2012 NHL Free Agents: Pittsburgh Penguins' Ideal Targets

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    According to capgeek.com, the Pens are nearly $11.2 million under the salary cap after dealing away Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek. The Pens could free up even more room if they could find a taker for Paul Martin's $5 million cap hit.

    With the added cap room, the Pens are expected to make a play for the top free agents on the market, looking to ensure that the team doesn't suffer its fourth consecutive playoff series loss, something that a team including Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Fleury should never deal with.

    Over the next few slides, I will go over free agents that the Pens should target and how they would fit in with the team.

Steve Sullivan

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    Sullivan scored 48 points for the Pens last season, while occasionally playing top-six minutes as well as time on the point during power-plays. Sullivan could fit in on any of the first three lines, providing scoring touch wherever needed.

    For just $1.5 million, that production was a total steal. The Pens should look to re-sign the veteran forward to a similar contract, keeping a valuable player from last year without spending too much money.

    Sullivan is looking to win a title, and even though his first season didn't work out as planned, the opportunity in Pittsburgh is still second to none when it comes to predicting a title run.

    Update: Signed with Phoenix Coyotes

Ray Whitney

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    An ageless wonder, Ray Whitney scored 77 points last year at age 39. Barring injury, there is little question the veteran forward could produce similar numbers even at age 40. Place him on a line with Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin, and there is little doubt those totals could improve.

    Whitney, a power-play whiz, would form a first unit of Crosby-Malkin-Neal-Letang-Whitney—which would be as close to unstoppable as a line could get.

    Update: Signed with Dallas Stars

Dustin Penner

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    Recent Stanley Cup champion Dustin Penner is about to hit the market—a market that is about to have large demand for the big power forward.

    Adding Penner to the team would provide the big presence in front of the net that this team hasn't had in recent memory. Pairing Penner with Crosby would combine two of the best players down low in the crease in today's NHL, and would certainly cause havoc for those trying to defend them. 

    Update: Re-signed with LA Kings

Jason Garrison

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    After a breakout season that included 16 goals for the 27-year-old power-play quarterback, Jason Garrison is about to make some bank during free agency.

    Garrison would provide the Pens with a second defenseman capable of leading the power-play. Since Alex Goligoski was traded to Dallas in the James Neal/Matt Niskanen trade, the Pens have lacked that second scoring defensman.

    He could be paired with Letang on the first power-play to give the Pens an impressive point tandem, or he could be given the reigns of the second unit—one that must improve next season so that Crosby, Malkin and company don't have to be on the ice for all two minutes of a penalty.

    Update: Signed with Vancouver Canucks

Shane Doan

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    The captain of the Phoenix Coyotes, who has been a part of the franchise since they were still in Winnipeg, is about to hit the market.

    Shane Doan will most likely stay in the desert. Yet, if the ownership situation is still in flux, he might decide to take his final big payday to play for a serious contender. Even though Phoenix made the conference finals this past season, one would have to doubt that they would make it that far again in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.

    Joining the Pens, he would provide Crosby with an RW that could do it all, including putting some of Crosby's fine passes into the back of the net. Doan would likely improve on his his 22-goal and 50-point season, playing top-six minutes with world-class players.

    Time's running out for Doan to win a title: he might just have to join a team like the Pens in order to chase that elusive cup win.

P.A. Parenteau

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    One of the most underrated players in the league, P.A. Parenteau is about to become much more appreciated. The contract he receives this offseason will increase his net worth exponentially.

    The 29-year-old Quebec native scored 67 points on the Island last year, playing alongside budding superstar John Tavares. Already acclimated with an elite center, Parenteau knows the speedy, along the boards game needed to play alongside Sidney Crosby—and plays it quite well.

    Parenteau could reach 80 points on the Pens, so look for them to give him a look if they miss out on their top two targets, in...

    Update: Signed with Colorado Avalanche

Ryan Suter

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    Suter is the best defenseman on the open market and will likely receive a massive offer from the Red Wings, who are looking to replace Nick Lidstrom and Brad Stuart.

    However, the Pens have the capabilities to match such an offer, and Shero was Nashville's Assistant GM when the club drafted and developed the star defenseman.

    He could be paired with Brooks Orpik to form a shutdown tandem, or paired with Kris Letang to form a dominant defensive pairing capable of dangerous things on both ends of the ice.

    Update: Signed with Minnesota Wild

Zach Parise

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    The biggest name in free agency should also be the Pens #1 priority.

    With nine waive-eligible defenseman this upcoming season, the need on defense is not quite as glaring as it was in the playoff loss to Philadelphia. The Pens have a very deep defensive core—which includes former first round picks in Joe Morrow and Simon Depres, who looked NHL ready in limited time last season—as well as this year's first-round picks, Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maata.

    Zach Parise would fill a need that the Pens have had since Marian Hossa rejected a long-term deal after the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals: an elite winger to play alongside Sidney Crosby.

    Crosby and Parise are known to be friends, and with Crosby recently signing a 12-year deal, Parise knows that he would be able to sustain success on the Pens for years to come.

    Pairing he best American forward with the best Canada has to offer would be interesting to say the least, as both will likely Captain their respective country in the next Winter Olympics.

    Even though the Minnesota Wild will make a strong play to bring the Minnesota native home, look for the Pens to make the biggest splash of the offseason by signing Parise to play alongside Crosby.

    Update: Signed with Minnesota Wild