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The Potential UFA Forwards Of 2012

It's hard to imagine the Devils allowing Zach Parise to test the open market

It's hard to imagine the Devils allowing Zach Parise to test the open market

Now that they’ve re-signed Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky and Steve Eminger, the Rangers are likely finished making transactions this summer.  But while training camp is still over a month away, it’s never too early to think ahead.

After this season the salaries of Steve Eminger, Wojtek Wolski, Sean Avery, Erik Christensen, Ruslan Fedotenko and Marty Biron will be wiped from the books and the team will only have to worry about re-signing Brandon Prust, Michael Del Zotto and possibly Mats Zuccarello.

The Blueshirts could have around $10 million in free cap space heading into next summer to add a backup goalie and some forwards, meaning New York could once again be a player in free agency.

The Rangers should be relatively set on defense and don’t appear likely to need to make any significant UFA additions along the blue line, but once again they could be seeking some supporting offense. It’s likely that some youngsters will fill the vacated forward spots and the Blueshirts might be wise to remember that Artem Anisimov, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh and Mike Sauer will be in need of new deals two summers from now, but the Rangers could still be in position to sign a significant free agent.

Many of these players will re-sign with their current teams or no longer be viable options by July 1, 2012, but here’s an early look at potential UFA forwards of interest a year from now:

Zach Parise, LW – The Devils have already begin clearing salary in anticipation of making a huge offer to Parise, but the 27-year-old would be wise to test the open market.  If he becomes available, all 30 teams will look into signing him and although the Rangers would surely be outbid, they have a strong affinity for young Americans.

Brad Boyes, RW – The Sabres acquired the 29-year-old from St. Louis prior to this year’s trade deadline and he ended up quietly tallying 55 points in 2010-2011.  Boyes hasn’t come close to matching the 43 goals he racked up in 2007-2008, but he’s a versatile offensive talent and is willing to play in the dirty areas.  His current cap hit is $4 million, but his future salary will be contingent upon his performance this year. 

Alex Semin, RW – There’s still speculation that Alex Ovechkin’s Russian sidekick might be traded prior to the start of the season, but he seems like a good bet to hit the open market next July.  Semin has demonstrated that he can score with the best of them, but he’s another enigmatic winger that can often leave teams underwhelmed.  If Semin stays healthy and has a big year, he might be able to match his current $6.7 million salary, but if not, he may end up chasing money back home to Russia. 

Chris Kunitz, LW – The 31-year-old came over from Anaheim in 2009 as just one of many attempts by Pittsburgh management to find competent wingers to play with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.  Kunitz is coming off the best statistical season of his career, but he has failed to put up the big numbers many expected he would after being paired with the best player in the world.  Kunitz’s current salary is just north of $3.7 million and as a 32-year-old free agent, this is probably his last shot at a big payday. 

Mikael Samuelsson, RW – The 34-year-old ex-Ranger continues to quietly post decent seasons in Vancouver, but he’s really getting up there in age.  Teams may be nervous about offering Samuelsson a multi-year contract because his cushy situation in Vancouver could be a big reason for his success, but he has playoff experience and in a supporting role he can still chip in decent offensive numbers. 

Mikhail Grabovski, C – After missing out on Brad Richards, the Maple Leafs will likely do whatever it takes to retain their emerging center.  Toronto probably won’t be outbid for Grabovski, but the 27-year-old could be interested in escaping the pressures of Toronto.  The Blueshirts are stacked at center, but Grabovski could be the jewel of the UFA class next year and if Derek Stepan is moved to left wing, Grabovski could become an extremely attractive option.  Grabovski’s asking price will probably make him an unrealistic option. 

Jiri Hudler, RW – The 27-year-old was a huge disappointment in his return to North America last year, but before his hiatus back to Russia, Hudler was an emerging star.  He’s now two years removed from a 57-point season and his performance this season will dictate his value next summer. 

Ales Hemsky, RW – Though Hemsky’s skill is undeniable, the Rangers already have two elite players with injury concerns.  Nevertheless, if the 27-year-old is available at the trade deadline and/or next summer, he’ll have a host of suitors and the Blueshirts could be among them.  When healthy Hemsky has proven that he can put up between 60 and 70 points with ease and that type of talent is rare in the NHL. 

Chris Kelly, C – Kelly is no more than a very good third-line center, but his play in the postseason for Boston is indicative of his value to a team.  The Rangers are set down the middle, but a high character player like Kelly that plays on both ends of the ice is always intriguing. 

Rich Peverley, C – The 29-year-old arrived in Boston as a trade deadline reinforcement, and like Kelly, he was a major factor during the Bruins Stanley Cup run.  Peverley is a mid-tier center right now, but a big season could inflate his value tremendously. 

Kristian Huselius, LW – Huselius could miss a good chunk of the season with a torn pectoral muscle, but in a weak left wing market, he could still cash in next July.  The 32-year-old has enjoyed a long run of success in the NHL and is still a good bet to hit 60 points when he’s healthy for a full year. 

R.J. Umberger, LW – The Rangers briefly owned Umberger’s rights seven years ago after acquiring him for Martin Rucinsky, but they were unable to reach a deal.  The team might be kicking itself for that because Umberger has emerged as a versatile two-way left wing capable of easily chipping in 50 points.  If there are no hard feelings between the two sides, the 29-year-old could be a very attractive UFA. 

Dustin Penner, LW – The hulking 28-year-old did little to impress after being traded to Los Angeles, but players with his size and skill level are far and few between.  Like many of the players on this list, a big season could propel his value upward, but right now he’s a high-risk, high-reward guy. 

Jarret Stoll, C – Stoll, 29, has quietly had a nice career although he’s never come close to matching the 68 points he posted back in 2005-2006.  A face-off wizard, Stoll will be in high demand, but the center-rich Rangers probably won’t come calling.

Shane Doan, RW – The 34-year-old has remained undyingly loyal to Phoenix, but with a still uncertain ownership situation and just a few years left, he’ll probably be ready to move on.  For a team on the cusp of taking the next step like New York, Doan will be an extremely attractive piece.  He’s still producing at a high level and there are few with more character, so Doan should attract plenty of attention if he reaches the open market.

Ray Whitney, LW – The 39-year-old continues to put up big numbers, but you have to wonder how much longer he’ll keep playing.  There really aren’t too many better offensive left wingers in the league than Whitney, but the Rangers are committed to a youth movement and though they need veterans, adding a guy who will be 40 next summer is unlikely.

Lee Stempniak, RW – Another supporting offensive player, Stempniak has shown flashes of big-time ability but has been unable to put it all together.  He’s certainly capable of potting 20 goals a year, but Stempniak is one of those guys that can disappear for stretches.

David Jones, RW – The Avalanche is scraping against the cap floor and should have no trouble locking up its emerging 27-year-old, but if Jones has another big year he could be in for a big raise.  The Blueshirts are always looking to bolster their young core and an established young scorer like Jones could be a wise addition.

Others of note: Daymond Langkow, Niklas Hagman, David Moss, Marco Sturm, Jochen Hecht, Mike Knuble, Jason Chimera, Blair Betts, Jaromir Jagr, Todd Bertuzzi, Tomas Holmstrom, Ryan Smyth, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jason Arnott, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Blake, Saku Koivu, Tuomo Ruutu, Milan Hejduk, Cody Mcleod, Brandon Yip

Click here for our full Summer 2011 Archive >

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Posted by Kevin Baumer | August 11, 2011 at 01:43 pm

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