NHL free agent preview and predictions of the 2012 off season

Zach PariseMuch has been made of the 2012 Free Agent class being a very thin group, but that will not stop teams from spending big money on July 1st. The overpayments have already begun, headlined by the insane $5.25 million per year given to Denis Wideman. One cannot talk player movement without mentioning the very cap friendly 12 year deal given to Sidney Crosby, who was still a year away from the open market. This sets the stage for a wild free agent frenzy. Here is a look at where some of the top free agents could land.

Elite Group

1. Zach Parise- Resigns with New Jersey Devils

Parise is the prize of this year’s free agent class. He will be the target of teams such as the Rangers, Kings, and his current team the Devils and he will get money and term. Parise is a gifted goal scorer, hard worker, and great leader. What everyone wants. When push comes to shove, look for him to stay put and finish what they started.

2. Ryan Suter- Signs with the Pittsburgh Penguins

While overshadowed by partner Shea Weber, Suter is one of the top defenseman in the NHL and looking to get paid and win. The Penguins cleared a lot of money over the weekend and will outbid the Red Wings. And the 12 year Crosby deal will only makes this deal more likely.

3. Alex Semin- Signs with the Detroit Red Wings

Semin is the enigma of the NHL. All the talent in the world, but he does not the work ethic to maximize the talent. The Wings seem to get the most out of players and Semin meshed well with Datsyuk at the World Championships.

No Surprises Here

1. Temmu Selanne- Resigns with the Anahiem Ducks

No shocker here. The Finnish Flash will either resign or hang em up. He can still score with the best of them and likely loves playing in the uptempo Boudreau offense.

2. Olli Joikien- Resigns with Calgary Flames

Joikien could get paid big this offseason as maybe the top center avaliable. But, the has often struggled outside of Calgary and always seems to come back to the Saddledome. He enjoyed a resurgence last year and will stay where he is comfortable.

3. Shane Doan- Resigns with the Phoenix Coyotes

This one will be interesting, as it was announced that Doan would test the market and possibly could leave the only organization he has ever known. Doan can still score and his experience and leadership is what every team needs and he will get offers. In the end though, the Captain stays put.

Welcome to the Penthouse

1. PA Parenteau- Signs with the New York Rangers

Parenteau is a crafty winger who would look good in  just about anyones top 6. And he put the numbers up on Long Island, which means he might do better on a better team. PA has 25-40 potential and will cash in on the thin market. And the Rangers will foot the bill to add some more offense to their impressive lineup. Watch also for the Blues and Senators who could use some offensive punch.

2. Jason Garrison- Signs with the Detroit Red Wings

The Wings will target Suter but settle for Garrison. Garrison exploded onto the scene last season with the Panthers, scoring 16 goals (3rd after Karlsson and Weber), 9 of which were on the power play (2nd to Weber). While he is nowhere near the defender Lidstrom is (and who is really) but he can help replace his point production as he comes into his own.

Goal Scoring Help in the Top six.

1. Ray Whitney- Signs with the Detroit Red Wings

Another Wing signing. Detroit has the cap space and will pick up another veteran looking for a home. The difference is Whitney can still play and is a power play wizard hungry for another Cup late in his career. The Blackhawks, Penguins, and Capitals could also be interested, as well as the Coyotes.

2. Dustin Penner- Resigns with the Los Angeles Kings

Penner had a rough start to his career and has never really lived up to his lofty expectations. But he seems to have found a home in LA and really stepped up in the playoffs.

3. Mikael Samuelson- Signs with the Washington Capitals

With Semin gone, the Capitals will need a new winger for newly acquired Riberio. Samuelson has had durability issues, but when healthy he can score and could thrive with a skilled center, whether its Riberio or Nick Backstrom. McPhee is a fan of short deals for FA if possible, and with the injury history Samuelsson provides the best opportunity for that with a good chance of top 6 production.

4. Jiri Hudler- Signs with the St Louis Blues

Hudler had an incredibly successful return to the NHL in Detroit with 25 goals and 25 assist last year. He is an excellent option for a team needing offense and the Blues fit that bill.

5. Andre Kostitsyn- Resigns with the Nashville Predators

The Kostitsyn’s have been more of a headache than a help over their career, but Andre is a 20 goal guy who will play better with his brother now in town (Sergei is restricted). As long as they stay out of the organized crime scene in Nashville, two Kostitsyn’s are always better than one on the ice.

6. Jaromir Jagr- Signs with the Edmonton Oilers

This one is a shot in the dark. Edmonton is poised to finally become relevant this year with an extremely talented core of Hall, Eberle, Nugent Hopkins, and the newly drafted Nail Yakpov. Jagr wants top 6 minutes and cannot be guaranteed that in Philly. Jagr could provide offense and an example for the young stars in Edmonton. Mike Knuble could be another excellent fit in Edmonton.

Blueline Help

1. Matt Carle- Resigns with the Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers always look for help on the backline and Carle has been a steady balanced defenseman since his arrival from San Jose. The two sides have already started talking, so expect a deal to get done.

2. Bryan Allen- Signs with the Nashville Predators

Bryan Allen is one of the more underrated defenders in hockey. He does not provide a lot on offense, but is a solid defender. With the impending departure of Suter, the Predators will be quick to get a replacement. Allen will not provide the offense, but could be a good candidate to play with Weber.

3. Joe Corvo- Signs with the Florida Panthers

Arter losing Jason Garrison to a mega deal, the Panthers will need a shooter to replace him on the Power Play. Corvo is a defensive liability, but has one of the hardest shots in the league from the point. The Panthers success last year was dependent on the man advantage and Corvo will help offset the loss of Garrison a bit.

4. Sheldon Souray- Signs with the Washington Capitals

This one makes a lot of sense at the right price. Souray saw a rebirth last year as a viable defenseman in Dallas and is still a powerplay threat. The Capitals could use a replacement for Wideman, but this deal makes sense because of Dimitri Orlov. Souray was in Hershey when Orlov began his professional career and was vital to his early development. Reuniting them, in Orlov’s first year as a full time player, could really solidify the blueline in DC.

5. Bryce Salvador- Sign with the Anahiem Ducks

The Ducks are thin on the blueline and Salvador should cash in somewhat on his strong postseason. While not an offensive defenseman, he does have good offensive instincts, which is needed in Boudreau’s system. Rosival, Kuba, and Kubina are also options for the Ducks.

Goalies?

This Free Agent class is absurdly thin in goaltending. In fact, one can argue that with the top available being Dwayne Roloson, Dan Ellis, and Antero Nittymaki that there are little to no starter quality goalies on the market. As a result, most teams have addressed their needs through trades, with Tomas Vokoun, Andres Lindback, and Sergei Bobrovsky being moved in recent days. Look for the last big trade to be Roberto Luongo, who will end up in Florida or Toronto.

And news broke Friday morning that Martin Broudeur is going to go to free agency if no deal is in place by Sunday. Most did not even consider him available, yet the chances he leaves New Jersey is slim to none.

Trades

The thin class has made trading a bigger possibility this offseason than normal with the likes of Jordan Staal, Mike Riberio, and the goalies already being dealt. Look for Rick Nash, Luongo, and possibly Bobby Ryan to be dealt over the next week or so.

NHL Central Division off-season plans

The draft and free agent signing period is almost here and we here at the Daily Shootout have decided to prepare a 4 point offseason plan for each team, organized by division. Today we look at the Central division:
Chicago Blackhawks:
1. Upgrade their goaltending situation – It doesn’t look like a Corey Crawford and Ray Emery platoon is going to get the Blackhawks back into the upper echelon of Western Conference teams. This can be done by bringing in someone like Josh Harding or making a trade of either Patrick Kane or Brent Seabrook.
2. Decide what to do with Patrick Kane – speaking of Kane, he is an unrestricted free agent next summer and had only 66 points last year despite a career high in ice time. He has also had photos posted of his partying antics online more than once. Kane would be a heck of a trade chip that could provide 2 or more pieces to help Chicago’s depth.
3. Integrate a couple of prospects into the lineup – The Blackhawks have two or three forward prospects (Saad, McNeill and Pirri) that could bolster the bottom 6 and maybe take some pressure of Toews, Kane, Hossa etc.