As Christmas in July approaches for hockey fans, we anxiously await news of our favorite team signing that player who can turn the franchise around and take our team to the Promise Land. This summer, there are a couple players in an otherwise weak free agent class that can be that player for an NHL team. Here is my list of the Top 20 free agents and the destination I feel would be the best fit for them. While most of these players are not the franchise player everyone hopes for, they may be the final piece to the puzzle that allows a team to reach a dominate level.
1. Zach Parise, LW.
I see Parise teasing the league and returning to the New Jersey Devils. All the hype this off-season has been centered around who will sign Parise to a mega-contract. Detroit, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and other teams have expressed interested, but I believe New Jersey will lock up their superstar.
2. Ryan Suter, D.
Suter's services may be more coveted than Parise's according to some analysts. With the departure of Nick Lidstrom and his cap space, I believe Ken Holland and the Detroit Red Wings will make Ryan Suter their franchise defenseman. Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Nashville, and Philadelphia are all rumored to have interest in the former US Olympian.
3. Shane Doan, RW.
While many believed it was a no-brainer that Doan returns to Phoenix, it has become a little more uncertain in the last few days. However, I believe the Phoenix Coyotes lock up their franchise player and captain over teams like Nashville and Los Angeles.
4. Alexander Semin, LW.
Arguably the most talented player in this year's free agent class, Semin is coming off a sub-par year. His top options will probably come down to Chicago and Detroit, with the Detroit Red Wings acquiring his services. Another prediction: he will sign a relatively short-term contract. Semin will thrive playing alongside a great playmaker like Pavel Datsyuk.
5. Martin Brodeur, G.
New Jersey's franchise goaltender since the mid-1990's is not going anywhere. The New Jersey Devils will keep him around for a few more years while searching for his heir, possibly Corey Crawford or Antti Niemi.
6. Matt Carle, D.
Philadelphia's blueliner has become a pretty good defenseman over the past few years. With Dennis Wideman's new contract earning him north of $5 million a year, you can expect Carle to get the same, if not more. Whoever loses out on the Ryan Suter sweepstakes is likely to sign Carle. My prediction is that the Pittsburgh Penguins sign Carle to bolster their blueline over teams like Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Boston.
7. Olli Jokinen, C.
While getting up there in age, Jokinen still continues to put up decent numbers. There are plenty of teams that are looking for a second line center. My guess is the Olli Jokinen returns to the Island and signs with an up-and-coming New York Islanders team over Montreal and Nashville.
8. PA Parenteau, RW.
This playmaker will join Jokinen and return to the New York Islanders. He join join Jokinen, John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, Michael Grabner, and Matt Moulson in a strong top-six forward group.
9. Ray Whitney, LW.
The ageless wonder. Whitney played very well for Phoenix down the stretch. However, I believe he will head to the Nashville Predators and thrive in their system.
10. Jiri Hudler, LW.
Hudler is an interesting player. He is under-sized and frequently had reservations in Mike Babcock's doghouse, but scored 30 goals and showed he can finish. He would thrive playing alongslide fellow Czech Tomas Plekanec with the Montreal Canadiens.
Notice how Toronto has not signed anyone yet.
11. Andrei Kostitsyn, RW.
He will join fellow Russian and party-er Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.
12. Bryce Salvador, D.
One fall-back plan after Suter and Carle are signed. He will sign with the Minnesota Wild.
13. Jaromir Jagr, RW.
Jags will join Hudler on a rebuilding Montreal Canadiens team.
14. Dustin Penner, LW.
After an awful season, Penner turned it on in the playoffs, scoring the overtime goal to send the Kings to the finals. He will sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs to play for his old coach Randy Carlyle and GM Brian Burke.
15. Jason Garrison, D.
He has a bomb from the point and will be coveted. However, the Florida Panthers will retain Garrison.
16. Paul Gaustad, C.
Faceoff specialist and physical player will sign with the New York Rangers after they let Brandon Prust walk.
17. Mikael Samuelsson, RW.
Veteran player will a great shot will sign with the Washington Capitals who could use his services on their power play.
18. Filip Kuba, D.
Kuba will sign with the Ottawa Senators.
19. Steve Sullivan, RW.
Still a speedster after a long tenure in the NHL, Sullivan will head north to the Buffalo Sabres.
20. Kyle Wellwood, RW.
Wellwood will join his brother and sign with the Philadelphia Flyers.
There's my Top 20, hopefully I get a few right. Merry Christmas Eve everyone. I hope everyone receives the present they were hoping for tomorrow afternoon. Cheesy I know.