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2012 Free Agency: The Top Dozen Players on the Market

Friday, 06.29.2012 / 2:31 PM PT / News
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Staff Writer
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2012 Free Agency: The Top Dozen Players on the Market



The shopping begins at noon ET Sunday when the 2012 unrestricted free-agent market officially opens for business.

The names at the top of everybody's list are impressive, but they can only be found on the aisle with all the expensive merchandise. The rest may be more affordable, especially if the salary cap number comes in at what is being reported, $70.3 million.



SHARKS FREE AGENCY LIVE BLOG: SUNDAY, 7/1 AT 8:30AM - FOLLOW THE OPENING OF FREE AGENCY WITH THE SHARKS CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS



There is still no way to be sure all of these names make it to unrestricted free agency at noon ET Sunday because some could be signed in advance of that time, but here are 12 potential unrestricted free agents that NHL.com has identified as the top guys that could be available.

You probably know about the first two, but don't sleep on the remaining 10:

Zach Parise, New Jersey

The Devils captain said two days after losing in the Stanley Cup Final that he would like to return to New Jersey, but the closer it gets to Sunday, the more likely it appears that Parise will at least test his market value in free agency. He is sure to like what he hears from various teams because he would be the most coveted free agent forward available and perhaps in line to secure an average annual salary of $7 million or more.

Even with Ilya Kovalchuk and Martin Brodeur on the team, he became the face of the Devils. He was given the captaincy at the start of the 2011-12 season and by all accounts lived up to it in every way possible. Other than New Jersey, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Minnesota and the Rangers are reportedly interested. Parise, though, said he would never cross the Hudson River to play for the Rangers.

Ryan Suter, Nashville

He's been living in the shadows of Predators captain Shea Weber, so you can understand why Suter has informed Nashville general manager David Poile that he plans to see what is out there for him starting Sunday. However, Suter is not ruling out a return to Nashville and Poile remains optimistic the team can offer him everything he wants, including a lucrative long-term contract.

Suter, though, will be pursued heavily by several teams. He's been linked to Detroit for the simple reason Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement created a gaping hole on the Red Wings' blue line and roughly $7 million in cap space. The Wild are also reportedly going to take a hard run at Suter, but he still may discover his best option is to return to Nashville. Time will tell.

Alexander Semin, Washington

The word "enigmatic" has been used in front of Semin's name for years now, but it is usually followed by talented. Nobody denies how good Semin has been and still can be if he puts his mind to it, but the problem is for far too long he has been looked at as a player that only gets it going when he wants to and doesn't produce in the clutch.

The Capitals were worried enough about Semin that they signed him only to a one-year extension that took him through the 2011-12 season. It appears he will make it to Sunday and become an unrestricted free agent. A team like the New York Rangers, which needs a goal scorer especially since Marian Gaborik won't start the season, may take a flier on Semin, who might have to settle for big money in a short-term contract.

Jason Garrison, Florida

Among experienced blueliners available, Garrison seems like the silver medal behind Suter. That's not a knock on him by any means. In fact, it's a compliment for what Garrison was able to accomplish in the final year of his deal with Florida.



SHARKS FREE AGENCY LIVE BLOG: SUNDAY, 7/1 AT 8:30AM - FOLLOW THE OPENING OF FREE AGENCY WITH THE SHARKS CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS



Garrison was third behind Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and runner-up Shea Weber for goals by a defenseman with 16. He also had 17 assists and was a plus-6 while averaging nearly 24 minutes per game. He scored nine power-play goals and three game-winning goals. If, for instance, the Red Wings strike out on Suter, they may turn their focus to Garrison.

Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia

He was the consummate teammate and professional in Philadelphia and teamed with Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell to form one of the best lines in the League. Jagr had 19 goals and 35 assists for 54 points in 73 games after spending the three previous seasons in Russia. He enjoyed Philadelphia and said it was the most fun season of his career.

However, now he appears eager to see what he's worth on the open market. Plenty of teams should be interested in Jagr now because he proved this past season in Philadelphia that he can still bring it in the NHL. He also reportedly plans to get leaner so he can be faster. Montreal might be interested.

Justin Schultz, Anaheim

Schultz is arguably the most intriguing name on the market. The 21-year-old defenseman has never played a game in the NHL, yet four years ago he was considered good enough to be a second-round pick by Anaheim. The B.C.-native never signed with the Ducks, and after three successful seasons at the University of Wisconsin he is now going to basically pick where he wants to begin his NHL career.

Schultz, who had 123 points in 121 games at Wisconsin, can only be offered the standard entry-level player contract, so he comes cheap. He's an intriguing guy for the teams that aren't willing to give maximum money to a veteran player, but still need an upgrade on their blue line. Of course, all Schultz comes with is potential, but enough scouts have seen him to believe he is going to be an impact player in the NHL.

PA Parenteau, New York Islanders

Parenteau was cast aside by the Ducks, Blackhawks and Rangers before he finally caught on with the Islanders and showed what he can do at the NHL level. He had 53 points in 2010-11, earned himself a one-year contract extension, and then delivered 67 points in 2011-12. Now he'll make it to Sunday as an unrestricted free agent to find out what he's really worth.

Parenteau, who benefitted by playing on John Tavares' wing, has said he would like to remain an Islander. However, he also might be a good consolation prize for a team that needs a scoring winger that doesn't sign Parise.

Matt Carle, Philadelphia

Carle has proven to be a big-minute blueliner with the ability to jump into the offense without sacrificing his defense. He also lays his body out to block shots. This is why the Flyers reportedly view him as a top priority to re-sign. But should he hit the market on Sunday, there are other teams looking for this exact type of defenseman and Philadelphia could find itself in a bidding war for its own guy.

Carle is an important piece to the Flyers, especially considering Chris Pronger may never return and Kimmo Timonen is 37 years old. The Flyers' blue line got younger with the acquisition of Luke Schenn, but Carle, who is only 27 years old, can be a top-two guy for several more seasons.

Ray Whitney, Phoenix

He's 40 years old, but that doesn't mean much in today's NHL. Whitney proved that this past season as he led the Coyotes with 77 points and was named a second-team All-Star at left wing.

The Coyotes want Whitney to return, but general manager Don Maloney is hesitant to offer a 40-year-old anything more than a one-year deal. Whitney might be able to secure a multi-year contract from another team. Remember, he still has a home in North Carolina and absolutely loved playing for the Hurricanes.



SHARKS FREE AGENCY LIVE BLOG: SUNDAY, 7/1 AT 8:30AM - FOLLOW THE OPENING OF FREE AGENCY WITH THE SHARKS CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS



Shane Doan, Phoenix

While it seems ridiculous that Doan would play for any other team (he's only played for one franchise in his entire 17-year career), if he does get to Sunday it is possible that the captain's run with the Coyotes could be done.

Doan has said he wants to return to Phoenix and Maloney wants him back. Doan is 35 years old, so he will get a multi-year contract. The questions are will it be from the Coyotes and will it be before Sunday at noon ET?

Dustin Penner, Los Angeles

If he makes it to Sunday, Penner is an intriguing guy for a lot of teams to look at. He's a power forward in the most obvious way (6-foot-4, 242 pounds) and he can put the puck in the net (135 career goals in 489 games). He also re-energized what looked like a dying career not long after coach Darryl Sutter took over in L.A.

Penner also is a two-time Stanley Cup champion (both won with California teams, prompting him to joke that San Jose is probably interested). He's one of the more likeable guys in the dressing room and with the media, and he seems to be really enjoying hockey now. The Kings are interested in bringing him back, but if they don't, there should be interest for Penner after his playoff run (11 points in 20 games).

Olli Jokinen, Calgary

Jokinen is a guy in an envious position. He will likely make it to Sunday as an unrestricted free agent and he's arguably the best center available in a pretty shallow pool of them. Jokinen, who had 61 points in 82 games with Calgary this past season, could a better-than-expected contract from a team in need of a center as a result of being the best pivot available.

He is rarely injured and normally effective. He's coming off his best statistical season since he put up 71 points for Florida in 2007-08. Since then, Jokinen has played for the Coyotes, Flames, Rangers and then the Flames again. He's coming off a two-year, $6 million contract. It's not ridiculous to think Jokinen could get at least that this summer.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter: @drosennhl

Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer

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