2012 NHL Free Agency

Sheldon Souray

UFA spotlight — Sheldon Souray

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All week leading up to July 1, we’ll be profiling unrestricted free agents and speculating where they might end up.

Sheldon Souray (D)

Age: 35

2011-12 cap hit: $1.65 million

The skinny: Souray’s goals appear to have shifted with the free agent market.

Originally, he stated his desire to stay in Dallas after a successful comeback season with the Stars, one that saw him notch 21 points in 65 games while averaging over 20 minutes per night.

Then things changed.

A report from Fan 590’s Andy Strickland claimed Souray rejected Dallas’ one-year, $3 million dollar offer, suggesting a couple variables entered the equation.

One, length of term. Souray probably wanted more than a single season, given he’s been a hockey nomad over the last three years (Edmonton, Hershey and Dallas).

Two, Souray likely recognized the market was thinning out. When he (allegedly) rejected Dallas’s offer, UFA defensemen Johnny Oduya, Jamie McBain, Alex Sulzer and Clayton Stoner had already been signed.

Since then, Barret Jackman, Brad Stuart, Shane O’Brien, Dennis Wideman, Hal Gill and Cory Sarich have come off the market as well.

The more the market dwindles the higher Souray’s value becomes. He also benefits by having a particular skill set, namely his booming shot (left-handed!) and ability to man the power play.

On that note, St. Louis had a mediocre power play last season and GM Doug Armstrong recently told BND.com he’s in the market for a left-handed defenseman.

As last summer’s signings of Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner suggest, St. Louis isn’t afraid to bring aboard veterans — could there be a fit for Souray?

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UFA spotlight — Dustin Penner

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All week leading up to July 1, we’ll be profiling unrestricted free agents and speculating where they might end up.

Dustin Penner (LW)

Age: 29

2011-12 cap hit: $4.25 million

The skinny: Even though the last two years have been rough, Penner has to be fairly optimistic heading into free agency.

He’s no longer burdened by his $21 million deal, has won two Cups in five seasons and, when paired with the right people, can be an offensive force.

In Edmonton, he clicked with Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner for a career year (2009-10: 32G-31A-63PTS).

In L.A., he gelled with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, forming a dynamic scoring line that notched 39 points in 20 playoff games.

(Given that Richards and Carter project to be in L.A. long-term, it wasn’t surprising to learn Penner was willing to give the Kings a hometown discount.)

The key difference between this free agency experience and Penner’s last will be expectations.

When Penner signed that monster offer sheet with the Oilers, he was 24 years old and projected to be a dominant power forward. Five years later, it’s pretty clear what Penner actually is — a large, affable guy that’s streaky, but has a knack for playing big in big moments.

Expect teams to bid accordingly.

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UFA spotlight — Olli Jokinen

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All week leading up to July 1, we’ll be profiling unrestricted free agents and speculating where they might end up.

Olli Jokinen (C)

Age: 33

2011-12 cap hit: $3,000,000

The skinny:

Jokinen had 23 goals and 61 points in 82 games last year, despite suffering an abdominal muscle tear that required offseason surgery. He’s expected to fully recover by the start of the 2012-13 campaign, but doesn’t appear primed to return to Calgary.

The final nail in his coffin was Calgary’s decision to ink KHL standout Roman Cervenka to a one-year, $3.8 million contract. On top of that, the Flames aren’t expected to spend anywhere close to the the cap ceiling next season, so Jokinen’s services probably won’t fit into their budget.

Jokinen’s production has declined significantly since his days with the Florida Panthers, but he should find suitors interested in using him as a second-line center. Sportsnet speculated that Jokinen could demand something similar to Alex Tanguay’s five-year, $17.5 million deal. He might not get that length, but with teams eager to gobble up whatever talent that makes it to unrestricted free agency, it’s not hard to see him getting an annual salary in that range.

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UFA spotlight — Jiri Hudler

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All week leading up to Sunday, July 1, we’ll be profiling unrestricted free agents and speculating where they might end up.

Jiri Hudler (LW)

Age: 28

2011-12 cap hit: $2.875 million

The skinny: 

Coming off a tough 2010-11 campaign — you know, the year after he bolted Detroit to join the KHL — Hudler rebounded nicely last season with 25G-25A-50PTS in 81 games, second amongst all Wings in goals.

On the surface, those numbers should make him one of the more highly sought-after UFAs…but there’s a catch.

Okay, catches.

The first is that Hudler’s bounce-back season was viewed by some as the byproduct of linemates Henrik Zetterberg and Valtteri Fulppula, Detroit’s first- and third-leading scorers respectively. What happens if, or when, Hudler skates with inferior talent?

The second? There are questions what Hudler can do beyond put the puck in the net.

“Hudler can score, but what else does he bring?” wrote Helen St. James of the Detroit Free Press. “He’s not a great skater. He’s not great in his own zone.”

That said, the Czech native looks to be a fit for any team in need of an offensive punch. Thankfully for him, more than a few teams fit the bill.

Minnesota, Los Angeles, New York Islanders, Florida and Columbus were the five lowest-scoring teams in the NHL last year (the Wild didn’t even have a 25-goal scorer). And regarding the aforementioned reference to Zetterberg/Filppula, it has to be said — when you put Hudler with skill guys, he will produce. Steady offensive output has been his calling card. Teams looking to fill out their top six or add something to the power play will likely kick his tires.

Wondering what Hudler’s market value might be? Do consider that, according to MLive.com, Wings GM Ken Holland wasn’t “apt” to pay him more than Johan Franzen, who has a $3.95 million annual cap hit.

More UFA spotlights

Ryan Suter

Zach Parise

Jason Garrison