In many ways, July 1 and the opening of unrestricted free agency is much like Christmas for hockey fans. Puck heads wake up early and rush to their living rooms early in the morning. But instead of checking underneath a Christmas tree, they’ll make a beeline straight towards the nearest computer. As the clock strikes noon and free agency becomes officially underway, fans remain glued to the internet in anticipation of the latest big news to break. In some cities, fans will receive the proverbial “coal” in their stocking when their hometown squad remains quiet and does little to improve the team. Luckier fans will receive the shiny new sports car they’d been hoping for when their team makes an impactful signing with the potential to alter the course of the franchise. As I type this up at 2 a.m. on July 1, 2012, hockey fans everywhere are overwhelmed with anxious excitement as this year’s free agent frenzy is now upon us.
In anticipation of tomorrow’s festivities, I’ve prepared ten (bold) predictions for the 2012 free agency period.
1) Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils) – LW – Minnesota Wild / 11-Years, $102 Million ($9.181 AAV)
– As I’ve said since January (and again in June), I firmly believe that the top free agent in the class of 2012 will be returning to his home state next season. While it is likely that Parise will want to play for an established winner, the contract offered by the Wild may blow the others so far out of the water, he’ll have no choice but to sign on the dotted line. (Note: I’ve revised the contract offer I had proposed in the Hockey Independent Offseason Predictions piece, published on June 23).
2) Ryan Suter (Nashville Predators) – D - Philadelphia Flyers / 6-Years, $43 Million ($7.167 AAV)
– Nashville’s 1B (1A is Shea Weber) blueliner is as good as it gets for defensemen in this year’s class of free agents. With captain Chris Pronger‘s health still severely in doubt, look for the Flyers to make a major play for Suter. Check out my in-depth analysis of a possible Suter-to-Philadelphia scenario here.
3) Alex Semin (Washington Capitals) – LW – Carolina Hurricanes / 4-Years, $25 Million ($6.250 AAV)
– In Carolina, Semin will have the chance to play top-six minutes in a system better suited to his skill set. Meanwhile, the ‘Canes are in search of a legitimate scoring winger to slot next to captain Eric Staal. It’s a match made it heaven.
4) Shane Doan (Phoenix Coyotes) – RW – Chicago Blackhawks / 3-Years, $12 Million ($4.000 AAV)
– The Coyotes finally broke through the second round of the playoffs last year, yet I don’t believe it will be enough to keep captain Shane Doan in town for next season. In Chicago, Doan will have the chance to contend for the Cup in each year of his contract.
5) Ray Whitney (Phoenix Coyotes) – LW – Boston Bruins / 1-Year, $3.75 Million ($3.750 AAV)
– The Bruins are a team that’s long been linked to aging veteran Ray Whitney. Expect the B’s to make a serious push for the former Stanley Cup winner, as general manager Peter Chiarelli has been quoted on his desire to add a “Mark Recchi” type player on multiple occasions.
6) Matt Carle (Philadelphia Flyers) – D – Detroit Red Wings / 5-Years, $28 Million ($5.600 AAV)
– After the Red Wings strike out on Ryan Suter, I believe their attention will quickly turn to the next best available defenseman, former Philadelphia Flyer Matt Carle. After seeing Dennis Wideman‘s mega deal with the Calgary Flames, Carle must have been foaming at the mouth with anticipation. Expect him to get slightly more than Wideman’s 5-year, $26.50 million dollar pact.
7) Jason Garrison (Florida Panthers) – D – Anaheim Ducks / 6-Years, $32 Million ($5.333 AAV)
– After a breakout season in 2011-’12, one would assume that Jason Garrison is ready to cash in on the first big-money contract of his career. The market for d-men is ridiculous inflated and will likely result in a 30-plus million dollar deal being faxed over to Garrison’s agent at some point this month. The Ducks are in a real bad spot on the blueline after losing both Lubomir Visnovsky and prospect Justin Schultz over the past week.
8) P.A. Parenteau (New York Islanders) – RW – Colorado Avalanche / 5-Years, $24 Million ($4.80 MIL)
– I’d expect Parenteau to be looking for a place where he’ll be able to consistently play top-six minutes. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the Colorado Avalanche will be the most interested. Adding Parenteau to a top-six group that already includes Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene and Calder trophy winner Gabriel Landeskog would make the Avs a legitimate threat in the Northwest division.
9) Martin Brodeur (New Jersey Devils) – G – Florida Panthers / 1-Year, $3.25 Million ($3.250 AAV)
– The Panthers are in desperate need of a legitimate starting goaltender to help hold down the fort until superstar prospect Jacob Markstrom is ready to make the jump to full-time NHL goalie. Brodeur is a perfect short-term fix for a playoff-caliber Florida squad.
10) Kyle Wellwood (Winnipeg Jets) – C – Dallas Stars / 4-Years, $14 Million ($3.500 AAV)
– Wellwood is an undersized pivot who seems to have finally established himself as a top-six forward at the NHL level. In Dallas, he’d help replace a lot of the offense lost when the Stars sent Mike Ribiero to the Capitals on draft night.
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About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.