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Top 10 Northwest Division free agents

Wednesday, 06.27.2012 / 5:52 PM / NHL Free Agency 2012

By Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer

Among the items NHL general managers will be seeking when the market for free agents opens July 1 at 12 p.m. ET are goal-scoring prowess, veteran know-how, solid defensive forwards and reliable blueliners.

They'll find all of that is available by combing the rosters of the five Northwest Division teams.

While the UFAs coming out of the Northwest don't feature anywhere near as big a name as New Jersey forward Zach Parise or Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, there will be some skilled playmakers, depth defensemen and bottom-six forwards seeking employment who can fill the needs of a team looking to add another piece to the puzzle.

Here are 10 notable players from Northwest teams who are set to test the free-agent waters come Sunday:

Olli Jokinen
Olli Jokinen
Center - CGY
Goals: 23 | Assists: 38 | Pts: 61
Shots: 223 | +/-: -12
Olli Jokinen, Calgary

It appeared Jokinen's days as a top-line center might be over and his career in decline after he went from a career-high 91 points in the 2006-07 season to 71, 57 and 50 over the following three campaigns while bouncing from Florida to Phoenix to Calgary to New York.

However, since returning for a second stint with the Flames, the numbers for the 33-year-old Finn have been trending upward again. Jokinen followed up a 54-point season in 2010-11 by putting up 61 points, including 23 goals, this past season. With more than 1,000 NHL games to his credit and just five power-play goals shy of the century mark for his career, he still projects as a strong option as a second-line center.

Ryan Smyth, Edmonton

His days as a 30-goal scorer are past, but Smyth proved in his first season back with the Oilers that he can still produce points as a reasonable rate for a second-line winger while also serving as a mentor on a team whose core group of forwards were barely out of diapers when he first broke in to the League.

Smyth turned 36 in February but showed he's still durable, playing in all 82 games while producing 19 goals and 46 points. More than just statistics, though, you get a bona-fide leader in the locker room from the guy affectionately known as "Captain Canada" for having served that role at six separate World Championships.

David Moss, Calgary

It's hard to know quite what to expect from the 30-year-old Moss, who has alternated between seasons in which he's resembled a top-six forward and ones in which his production has been better suited for a third- or even fourth-liner.

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:

He scored a career-high 20 goals in 2008-09 and 17 two seasons later, but slipped to just two goals and nine points during an injury-plagued 2011-12 campaign that saw him dress for only 32 games. The Flames might best understand the value of Moss at this stage in his career, but another team willing to take a gamble could find a bargain if he stays healthy and rediscovers his offensive touch.

Sami Salo, Vancouver

He'll turn 38 in September, so anything more than a one-year contract seems unlikely, but Salo has shown he still has a lot left in the tank since an Achilles injury cost him a large chunk of the 2010-11 season.

Salo returned strong to help the Canucks in their run to the Stanley Cup Final, then produced nine goals and 25 points while playing in 69 games this past season. Seven of the goals came on the power play, where he still boasts a powerful shot from the point. He did miss time due to a groin injury and a concussion, though, and at his age injuries are always a concern.

Lee Stempniak, Calgary

Supply rarely meets demand when it comes to teams looking for more offense in free agency, so it's probable someone will throw a decent contract Stempniak's way in hopes that he can replicate the scoring touch that saw him post 14 goals in just 18 games after Phoenix acquired him from Toronto at the 2010 trade deadline.

Thanks to that tear, Stempniak ended up with a career-high 28 goals that season, but he slipped to 19 in his only full season with the Coyotes and then to 14 after the Flames picked him up. His points have dipped from 48 to 38 to 28, not a positive sign as he approaches his 30th birthday.

Jay McClement, Colorado

He was the name overlooked in the mega-deal that saw the Blues and Avalanche swap defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Erik Johnson back in February 2011. Colorado also sent power forward Chris Stewart to St. Louis in that trade and got back McClement, who has never scored more than 12 goals in a season but is an extremely valuable checking-line center and penalty-killer.

The 29-year-old had his typical, underrated-type season in 2011-12, scoring 10 goals in 80 games and winning 51.3 percent of his faceoffs. He also helped the Avalanche improve from dead last on the PK to a respectable 12th in the League.

Kurtis Foster, Minnesota

It was a nomadic few months for the 2010 Masterton Trophy finalist, who was traded early in the season from Anaheim to New Jersey and then shipped again to Minnesota prior to the deadline.

All told, the 30-year-old Foster did his best work with the Devils, recording three goals and 12 points in 28 games. He went scoreless in 14 games during his return engagement with the Wild, where he played from 2005-09. Foster registered a career-high 42 points with the Lightning in 2009-10 after recovering from a severe leg injury, and though he looks to be on the downside of his career, his booming shot from the blue line will grab some team's attention.

Cory Sarich
Cory Sarich
Defense - CGY
Goals: 1 | Assists: 6 | Pts: 7
Shots: 36 | +/-: +1
Cory Sarich, Calgary

Having played nearly 900 NHL games and with a Stanley Cup to his credit (Tampa Bay, 2004), the 33-year-old Sarich brings the sort of dependable, experienced presence a contending team covets from a fifth or sixth defenseman.

In his five seasons with the Flames since coming over from the Lightning, Sarich played more than 75 games three times, recorded as many as 20 points and was a combined plus-30 while also racking up 446 penalty minutes thanks to his physical style of play.

(Note: Sarich re-signed with the Flames on June 29.)

Mike Lundin, Minnesota

It's difficult to say what the market will be for Lundin after he played only 17 games in what seemingly will be his only season with the Wild.

On the plus side, Lundin is only turning 28 in September and his four previous NHL seasons with the Lightning suggest the type of blueliner who can provide steady, if unspectacular play. A team with questions on the back end could look to him to fill out their third pairing or serve as a capable seventh defenseman.

Aaron Rome, Vancouver

A journeyman since breaking into the League with the Ducks in 2007, Rome may best be remembered to this point as the Canucks defenseman whose illegal hit on Boston's Nathan Horton kicked the competitive juices into overdrive during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

But he's also a valuable depth defenseman, having averaged 49 games for Vancouver the past three seasons. Rome, who turns 29 in September, also scored four of his six career goals and put up a career-best 10 points in 2011-12, suggesting an offensive element to his game that hadn't surfaced in the past.

It means a lot to us, we're very excited. We're looking to continue to build on [our] top core talent of young players. It's just a great opportunity for us to really build high.

— Panthers vice president of hockey operations Travis Viola after Florida won the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft Lottery