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Free Agency preview: Atlantic Division

Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Free Agency 2012

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

The Atlantic Division is home to four playoff teams from the 2011-12 season, including the Eastern Conference champions and the NHL's top regular-season team. It's also the current home of the player (Zach Parise) who could be the most sought after unrestricted free agent if he hits the market July 1, and two teams (Penguins, Rangers) that figure to be involved in major transactions.

This was one of the most watched divisions during the season and nothing should change now. How it all shakes out remains to be seen, but the Rangers, Devils, Penguins, Flyers and Islanders are teams with wants and needs -- and some with the means to make it all happen.

2012 FREE AGENCY

Free agency previews (by division)

With free agency opening Sunday at noon ET, NHL.com takes a look at the needs of all 30 teams -- division by division -- as well as the Top 10 free agents in each division:

Here is a roster-building cheat sheet for the Atlantic Division teams. The salary cap figures come from Capgeek.com and are based on the $70.2 million salary cap that teams will be operating under come July 1:

NEW YORK RANGERS
(109 points, 1st in Atlantic Division, 1st in Eastern Conference)

Needs: Goals

Wants: A goal scorer, a backup goalie, depth defensemen

Means: $21,016,666 in cap space with 15 players already signed

Targets: The Rangers figure to be heavily involved in the Rick Nash sweepstakes. They've also reportedly reached out to Anaheim to talk about the availability of Bobby Ryan and what it would take to pry him out of Southern California. The Rangers' need for goals was already well-documented, but with Marian Gaborik expected to miss the first couple of months of next season due to shoulder surgery, they simply have to add a goal scorer or two.

The Rangers need to add depth on the back end, especially considering they don't expect Michael Sauer (concussion) to be ready for the start of the season. Depth was sorely missing in the playoffs as Dan Girardi, Ryan McDonagh and Marc Staal each were forced to play more than 25 minutes per game.

Their defense could also take a hit if Michael Del Zotto and Tim Erixon have to get moved in a trade for Nash or Ryan. If Erixon stays, he should be given every opportunity to make the club.

Beyond all that, the Rangers likely will look to re-sign backup goalie Martin Biron before he hits the market. Ruslan Fedotenko is another favorite of coach John Tortorella and could be a UFA on Sunday.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
(108 points, 2nd in Atlantic Division, 4th in Eastern Conference)

Needs: Depth on the wing and in the back

Wants: A scoring winger, a top-four defenseman

Means: $14,566,667 in cap space with 18 players already signed

Targets: General manager Ray Shero's moves at the NHL Draft last weekend (trading Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek) suggest he might be going for something big come July 1. Several media reports suggest Zach Parise is the big target with Ryan Suter second.

Parise is friendly with Sidney Crosby and knows about the Penguins' style having played against them for so many years in New Jersey. Parise may not make it to July 1 because he has stated a desire to return to New Jersey and the Devils want him back. However, if Shero was able to offer Jordan Staal a 10-year contract (it was rejected), then clearly he can do the same with Parise.

Suter, who likely will test his value on the free-agent market, would give the Penguins two of the elite defensemen in the game with Kris Letang already here. The Penguins opened space on their blue line and an extra $4 million in salary by trading Michalek to Phoenix for draft picks. Paul Martin is another blueliner Shero reportedly is trying to trade.

The Penguins likely will also try to bring back Steve Sullivan, who will be unrestricted. They've already traded for and signed Tomas Vokoun as the backup to Marc-Andre Fleury.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
(103 points, 3rd in Atlantic Division, 5th in Eastern Conference)

Needs: A better overall defense, secondary scoring

Wants: Depth defensemen, a forward to replace James van Riemsdyk

Means: $11,381,627 in cap space with 19 players already signed

Targets: Luke Schenn was a nice addition to the Flyers' back end, especially considering there is so much uncertainty surrounding Chris Pronger. But it came at the price of van Riemsdyk, which means the Flyers are now in the market for a top-six winger. Ryan, who is from nearby Cherry Hill, N.J., has said Philadelphia would be a comfortable landing spot for him.

The Flyers got more than they imagined this past season out of Jaromir Jagr, who it appears will test free agency. Philadelphia liked Jagr so much that getting him back in the fold is important, especially considering he worked well on the right side of a line that included Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell.

Zach Parise has expressed a desire to stay in New Jersey, but the longer the Devils go without signing their captain, the more dangerous it is they could lose him to a huge offer from another team -- perhaps even a division rival. (Photo: Getty)

Re-signing Matt Carle is a priority for general manager Paul Holmgren, and adding another defenseman is possible unless they believe Marc-Andre Bourdon, who is a restricted free agent, is ready to play a full season. The Flyers already have Schenn, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Nicklas Grossmann and Andreas Lilja signed. It might stay status quo if they re-sign Carle.

The Flyers traded Sergei Bobrovsky to Columbus, so they need a backup goalie. It's possible Michael Leighton re-signs with Philadelphia, but Holmgren could search a market that includes ex-Flyer Antero Niittymaki, Martin Biron, Johan Hedberg, Chris Mason, Dan Ellis, Scott Clemmensen, Al Montoya and Curtis Sanford.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS
(102 points, 4th in Atlantic Division, 6th in Eastern Conference)

Needs: To keep some of their own players

Wants: Re-sign Zach Parise and Martin Brodeur

Means: $25,845,834 in cap space with 16 players already signed

Targets: Parise and Brodeur each stated his desire to return to New Jersey just two days after losing in the Stanley Cup Final. Though a new contract for Brodeur seems a mere formality that will get done prior to July 1, the longer the Devils go without signing Parise, the more dangerous it is they will lose him to a huge offer from another team.

Parise, as Brodeur said on breakup day, is the face of this franchise. He is the captain and one of the most respected players in the dressing room and, really, around the NHL. He is priority No. 1 for Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello.

All indications were that Brodeur, 40, would be back. But on June 29, it was reported he has hired an agent and is prepared to test the market. Johan Hedberg, 39, who has been as solid a backup as Brodeur has ever had, is also due a new contract.

Including Parise, Brodeur and Hedberg, the Devils had 11 players who could have become unrestricted free agents July 1. Stephen Gionta, Ryan Carter and Steve Bernier -- the components of their vaunted fourth line in the playoffs -- were potential UFAs the Devils re-signed Friday.

Bryce Salvador is an interesting blueliner who New Jersey might have to let hit the open market considering Adam Larsson likely will be given a full-time role and the Devils already have Anton Volchenkov, Henrik Tallinder, Andy Greene and Marek Zidlicky signed, with Mark Fayne (RFA) also prepared to return.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS
(79 points, 5th in Atlantic Division, 14th in Eastern Conference)

Needs: Upgrades in secondary scoring, more experience on defense

Wants: Veteran depth defensemen, a front-line scorer, a backup goalie

Means: $25,467,667 in cap space with 16 players already signed

PA Parenteau
PA Parenteau
2011-12 STATS | Right Wing - NYI
Goals: 18 | Assists: 49 | Pts: 67
Shots: 167 | +/-: -8
Targets: It appears PA Parenteau, who put up 67 points this past season, will test free agency July 1. If the Isles lose him, they'll have to find a way to recoup that offense in some way, shape or form. It's not easy because Long Island has not been a destination of choice in free agency as of late, but maybe the Islanders would take a flier on Alexander Semin, one of the most puzzling talents in today's NHL.

Regardless, the Islanders need upgrades all around. It would help if Michael Grabner became a 30-goal scorer again and Nino Niederreiter started to show some of the potential that made him worthy of being the No. 5 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

The Islanders spent this draft weekend focusing on defense, but really only came up with one NHL player: Lubomir Visnovsky, who is 36 years old and coming off a down season. Visnovsky scored 68 points for Anaheim in 2010-11 but managed only 27 this past season.

Even with Visnovsky and Mark Streit, who is 34, the Islanders are extremely young on defense with Travis Hamonic (21), Matt Donovan (22) and Andrew MacDonald (25) their only other signed blueliners. They have been upgrading at this position throughout the organization, but some of that has to translate to the NHL level this season.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

For me, it's a great win for our hockey team and for a lot of people back in Columbus, especially our fans in particular … people who have been devoted to this organization, it's big.

— Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards on their win vs. the Penguins in Game 2, the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup Playoff victory