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NHL Free Agency 2012

Free Agency preview: Southeast Division

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

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

The Florida Panthers in 2011-12 became the first team in five seasons other than the Washington Capitals to finish first in the Southeast Division.

Though that could be the start of something good with regard to competitive balance for the foreseeable future, let's not forget that the Southeast also was the first division post-lockout in which every team was outscored by its opponent. The Caps actually sported the best goal differential at minus-8, but the division was outscored by a whopping 129 goals last season.

Was it a lack of offense, struggles on defense, or inconsistent goaltending that led to the statistical anomaly? It was probably a combination of the three, but there's little doubt all five teams will be looking to improve via free agency.

Here is a cheat sheet for the Southeast Division teams as July 1 nears.

Top 10 Southeast Division free agents

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

Mike G. Morreale - Staff Writer

The most touted unrestricted free agent available from the Southeast Division could be right wing Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals.

Semin will obviously command big money, despite the fact the Caps had been able to entice him into signing consecutive one-year deals to remain in Washington. The team might not be as quick to keep the 28-year-old forward this time -- he signed for $6 million midway through the 2009-10 season and for $6.7 million last January.

The New York Rangers could be one of a few teams interested in Semin if the Capitals are willing to part with the 13th selection in the 2002 NHL Draft.

In addition to Semin, expect Florida Panthers defenseman and power-play specialist Jason Garrison to field several offers. The 27-year-old, who completed his third NHL season, struck for nine power-play goals in 2011-12.

The top dozen players on the market

Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 6:55 PM / NHL Free Agency 2012

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The shopping begins at noon ET Sunday when the 2012 unrestricted free-agent market officially opens for business.

The names at the top of everybody's list are impressive, but they can only be found on the aisle with all the expensive merchandise. The rest may be more affordable, especially if the salary cap number comes in at what is being reported, $70.3 million.

There is still no way to be sure all of these names make it to unrestricted free agency at noon ET Sunday because some could be signed in advance of that time, but here are 12 potential unrestricted free agents that has identified as the top guys that could be available.

Top 10 Pacific Division free agents

Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 4:15 PM / NHL Free Agency 2012

David Kalan - Staff Writer

The marquee free agents this offseason are easy to name -- but none of them are coming from teams in the Pacific Division.

That doesn't mean there aren't valuable players available from the West Coast. Stars hitting the open market are few and far between in the Pacific, but the division was one of the tightest in the League, produced three playoff teams, and is home to the reigning Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings. That's because these teams are rich in the nuts and bolts that make up a contender.

The free agents from the Pacific may not be the hottest names on the market -- though one of them is a no-doubt Hall of Famer -- but when a team wins a championship, it's often because it is a deep outfit that can roll four lines with confidence and do the little things correctly.

Top 10 Atlantic Division free agents

Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 1:00 PM / NHL Free Agency 2012

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

Zach Parise.

Just say the name around hockey fans and you'll get various opinions on where they think he should play and why. Write the name on Twitter without any commentary -- seriously, just type in Zach Parise -- and any number of your followers will fire back with comments about where they think he's going or if they think he's staying in New Jersey.

Parise has always been one of the hardest-working players on the ice and one of the most accessible and personable off it. Now the lights of NHL free agency are shining brightest on him, and there is no escaping the deluge of rumors and questions and statements and opinions that will involve his name and his future until it is decided with a lucrative, long-term contract.

But he's not alone -- far from it.

Look no further than the Atlantic Division, where Parise is the superstar who headlines a strong group of players who could be available to all 30 teams come noon ET on July 1 when the NHL's free agent market opens for business.

Schultz set to capitalize on free-agent status

Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 10:55 AM / NHL Free Agency 2012

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

"Overall, he's a player who is capable of controlling the pace and tempo of play when he has the puck. He's a player who wants to make a difference in the game. I think he has a chance to be a top-end defenseman." -- NHL Network analyst Craig Button on Justin Schultz

Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are the two most talked about unrestricted free agents, but the player drawing the most attention from teams is a 21-year-old college kid who has yet to play a professional game.

Most fans might not know the name Justin Schultz, but you can be sure 30 NHL teams have the young man on speed dial.

A defenseman drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round in 2007, Schultz has blossomed into what some scouts regard as the best player not currently in the NHL.

Twelve big questions heading into free agency

Tuesday, 06.26.2012 / 10:32 AM / NHL Free Agency 2012

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

The NHL Draft is done, but the business of hockey is just getting started. General managers across the League are talking with agents and each other this week as trade talks heat up and the free agency period nears.

The market opens Sunday at noon ET. The big names are well-known. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are the hottest of the hot commodities who appear primed to hit the market. There are others as well, including Alexander Semin and up-and-coming Justin Schultz, who has never played a game in the NHL but is being courted like a veteran with Stanley Cup championship rings.

Beyond free agency, the NHL could see a couple of mountains move this summer: Rick Nash and Roberto Luongo. The Capitals and Oilers still need new head coaches.

Free Agency preview: Atlantic Division

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

Dan Rosen - 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.

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