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Top 10 Atlantic Division free agents

by Dan Rosen

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.

Zach Parise
Zach Parise
Left Wing - NJD
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 15
SOG: 87 | +/-: -8
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.

Here is a breakdown of the 10 most notable potential UFAs who are currently on rosters of the five Atlantic Division teams:

Zach Parise, New Jersey

The 27-year-old will be married this summer and now he's not just thinking about goals and points and a Stanley Cup -- he's thinking about his future and his family. Where does Parise want to spend what could be the next decade of his life?

He likes New Jersey and has stated a desire to return, but will Pittsburgh or Detroit offer him something better? Will he think about going home to Minnesota? Does he have any interest in the West Coast? The Devils might be able to help out Parise by offering him a contract befitting the captain of the Eastern Conference champions, but no matter how it plays out and where he ends up, Parise is going to get paid a lot of money.

Martin Brodeur, New Jersey

It was thought Brodeur, 40, would play only for the Devils if he decided to come back for another season. But on June 29, it was reported he has hired an agent, something he said he would do only to consider offers from other teams.

He said after losing in the Stanley Cup Final he needed a few weeks to talk with his family and especially consult with his father before deciding on his future. Now there's a chance that future will not be with the Devils, for whom he has played his entire record-breaking career.

The former Penguin enjoyed a solid first season with the other team in Pennsylvania, but will he stay with the Flyers or explore other options?
(Photo: Getty Images)

Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia

After three seasons in Russia, Jagr, 40, returned to the NHL in 2011-12 and gave the Flyers more than they could have expected. He put up 19 goals and 54 points while playing in 73 games. Jagr enjoyed Philadelphia and said it rejuvenated him being around the club and especially playing on a line with Claude Giroux, but it appears for the second straight summer he will test his value on the open market.

Jagr played last season on a one-year, $3.3 million contract. He could command at least that this season and the Flyers might consider ponying up considering how good he was for them last season.

PA Parenteau, New York Islanders

If Parenteau, 29, is going to continue at his current pace and get better every season, then he's a player the Islanders can ill afford to lose. Considering Parenteau put up 67 points this past season after scoring 53 in 2010-11, the Islanders -- or any team -- will have to pay him and provide some term because he's become a legitimate scoring winger in the NHL.

Parenteau was drafted by the Ducks then moved to the Blackhawks. He was picked up by the Rangers, who dumped him. He latched on with the Islanders and found his role in the NHL as a top-six scorer. Now he's due a payday after making $1.25 million on a one-year contract last season.

Matt Carle, Philadelphia

Carle, 27, is a priority for the Flyers considering he has been a minute-muncher for them and they don't expect to have Chris Pronger back. He led the Flyers with 23 minutes per game, including nearly 3:00 on the power play and almost 2:00 on the penalty kill. He was acquired from Tampa Bay early in the 2008-09 season and has been one of the Flyers' steadiest defensemen, contributing 15 goals and 122 assists in 308 games.

Carle, who had 38 points this past season, has not missed a game since the 2009-10 season. He is coming off a four-year contract that paid him more than $3.4 million annually.

Steve Sullivan, Pittsburgh

Sullivan, who turns 38 on July 6, was Penguins general manager Ray Shero's latest bargain find as a player who cost Pittsburgh just $1.5 million and still put up 48 points in 79 games. Sullivan became a fixture as the left wing on Sidney Crosby's line. He also played some point on the Penguins power play.

Shero reportedly is interested in bringing back Sullivan, but a team that needs secondary scoring might be willing to offer him more than the Penguins, especially if Parise and/or Ryan Suter are on Shero's want list.


Free agency previews (by division)

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

Bryce Salvador, New Jersey

After going all 82 games in the regular season without scoring a goal, Salvador, 36, got downright offensive in the playoffs and scored four times to go along with 10 assists (he had nine assists in the regular season). The offense certainly didn't hurt Salvador's chances of securing another multi-year contract, but any team that signs him will do so because of his ability on the other side of the blue line.

Salvador was one of New Jersey's steadiest defenseman after missing the entire 2010-11 season due to concussion problems. He is coming off four-year contract that paid him $2.9 million annually. New Jersey already has five defensemen signed, and Mark Fayne, a restricted free agent, is expected to return.

Ruslan Fedotenko, New York Rangers

Fedotenko is one of John Tortorella's favorites because he does all the little things a winner does in addition to scoring some goals. However, Fedotenko's production has gone down in each of the past three seasons after he scored 39 points and won the Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2008-09. He had a career-low nine goals and 20 points in 73 games with the Rangers this past season.

Fedotenko is 33 years old and coming off a one-year, $1.4 million contract. Based on his production, Fedotenko might have to take a pay cut to stay in the NHL, but any team that signs him will be getting a two-time Stanley Cup champion who is 6-0 in Game 7s.

Martin Biron, New York Rangers

Henrik Lundqvist has enjoyed being teammates and working with Biron. Isn't that enough for the Rangers to give him the contract he wants to return to New York? He played the past two years under a contract that paid him $875,000 per season.

Biron also has been one of the best backups in the NHL over the past two seasons. Not only has he allowed Lundqvist the ability to take a game off here and there, he has come up with a 20-12-2 record, a 2.32 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

Johan Hedberg, New Jersey

Hedberg has been exactly what the Devils needed as a backup to Brodeur. He spelled Brodeur when he was hurt and won 32 games over the past two seasons, including 17 in 2011-12 thanks to his 2.23 GAA and .918 save percentage. He also had four shutouts.

The question for the Devils is, can they go another season with a 40-year-old starter and a 39-year-old backup? Hedberg made $1.25 million this past season.

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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