NHL Free Agents 2012: Top Forwards Available

NEWARK, NJ - APRIL 02: Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils skates hard during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadians at the Prudential Center on April 2, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. Parise played in his first game in months as he recovered from surgery. Montreal won 3-1. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)

The Stars will be one of many teams making a strong push for New Jersey Devils LW Zach Parise, the top forward in the free agent market.

After taking a look at the available defensemen , we continue our look at free agency for the Stars by perusing the forwards that will be available.

The Stars have a tricky forward situation as it is. Here's who they have currently signed on that looks like they'll start the year at the NHL level: Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, Steve Ott (though there's lots of trade rumors for Ott), Brenden Morrow, Vernon Fiddler, Eric Nystrom, Reilly Smith, Cody Eakin, Tomas Vincour, Ryan Garbutt and Tom Wandell.

They have a severe lack of top-six forwards (only three) and an abundance of third/fourth line grinders and energy guys. The depth is especially lacking at the center position with Jamie Benn as the only true top-six forward that plays the center position. If Dallas doesn't get someone adequate enough to anchor the second line, there's going to be a whole lot on Benn's plate this season. They're going to go into next season hoping that Reilly Smith and Eakin can make that jump to their games.

Luckily for Dallas, they have a ton of cap space and should be busy in the free agent pool for forwards. The free agent pool for forwards is pretty weak overall (like the defensemen) but there are a good number of players that could fill those top-six roles for this team. It's mostly wingers out there though so Dallas is out of luck in looking for centers.

Zach Parise LW - New Jersey Devils

Age: 27 (28 later this year)
5'11"/~195 lbs
2011-2012 cap hit: $6 million

Parise is set to make stupid amounts of money in free agency. He's the best forward available and has every team out there trying to get his services. He's a solid two-way player, scores a bunch of goals, and you can count on him to play every game of the season. There's nothing not to like about Parise.

The problem for Dallas is there are much more attractive places for Parise to go than the Stars. The Red Wings have made no doubt their intentions on getting Parise and the Penguins just recently freed up a lot of cap room to make a run at him (would he take less money to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin?). He could also always re-sign with the Devils to stay with what he knows. It all comes down to what Parise wants. If he wants money, some team out there is going to offer him $10 million+ per year to make him one of the highest paid in the entire league.

Dallas seems like one of those teams that's all-in on Parise though so they might be more than willing to throw the everything plus the kitchen sink at him. A line of Parise-Benn-Ryder would make up for a lot of other offensive deficiencies.

Alexander Semin LW - Washington Capitals

Age: 28
6'2"/~210 lbs
2011-2012 cap hit: $6.7 million

Semin is an interesting case. He's had so many red flags throughout his career about his effort level, especially in big games. His point totals have dropped off considerably in the last seasons (20-30 points fewer than his first few seasons with Washington), he's got an enormous price tag and there's a slight concern about a KHL team making a huge offer for him.

The potential is still there though and there's no doubt he's a top-six forward and one of the top talents available. It might be that he just needs a change of scenery. Personally though, I'd cringe if the Stars signed him, especially since it will take a hefty contract to do so.

Ray Whitney LW - Phoenix Coyotes

Age: 40
5'10"/~180 lbs
2011-2012 cap hit: $3 million

Whitney may be one of the few guys in the league that remembers when the dust first settled crust, but he's somehow still a very effective player. He's had 55+ points in nine of the last ten seasons and is a lock to score around 20 goals each year. He was one of the Coyotes best players in the playoffs this past season and he was their points leader during the regular season by a large margin. He played nearly 19 minutes a game, was their leader in time on the power play and subsequently their team leader in power play points (his 20 points on the PP would have led the Stars).

I find myself a little perplexed even saying this, but the Stars signing Whitney would make me very happy indeed. He shouldn't cost too much, provides a good scoring punch and could be invaluable teacher for a team full of young wingers. I'd love for the Stars to go after the Wizard and sign him to a 1-2 year contract.

EDIT: Dallas signed Whitney to a two year $9 million contract on Sunday.

Olli Jokinen C - Calgary Flames

Age: 33
6'2"/~210 lbs
2011-2012 cap hit: $3 million

Jokinen is pretty much the only center available so he should be getting looks from any center needy team (see: Dallas Stars). Jokinen had himself a small resurgence in his game as he's been healthy the past couple of seasons and put up 54 and 61 points respectively with the Flames. He's not going to wow anyone though with his game but he could be a reliable second center.

I can certainly understand if the Stars try hard for him but he get just gets a "meh" from me. If Dallas does sign him I just hope it's not a long contract.

P.A Parenteau RW - New York Islanders

Age: 29
6'0"/~195 lbs
2011-2012 cap hit: $1.25 million

Parenteau should be getting himself a hefty raise this offseason. In his first real taste of NHL play the last two years, he's had 53 and 67 points while playing with John Tavares. He seems locked in as a 20 goals per year guy and he was excellent on the power play last season, leading the Islanders with 18 assists and 25 points.

He works hard and doesn't have too much wear and tear on him as he's only had three years of NHL play. He looks like a nice fit on this team as a top-six forward and Dallas could really use his power play skills. I'd want the Stars to try and target him this offseason.

Jiri Hudler - Winger/Center - Detroit Red Wings

Age: 28
5'10"/~190 lbs
2011-2012 cap hit: $2.875 million

Hudler is someone that I hope the Stars are targeting. He plays wing or center (though he's terrible at face-offs) and has put up solid point totals with the Red Wings the last couple of seasons, including 50 points last season. With opportunities in Dallas, he could easily reach that mark again. He works the power play and would easily work on the man advantage on this team. He seems to be improving and would be a valuable goal scorer here.

Plus he's been a Stars killer during his career and what better way to stop that than to just sign him.

Dustin Penner

No. Just no.

Andrei Kostitsyn LW - Nashville Predators

Age: 27
6'0"/~215 lbs
2011-2012 cap hit: $3.25 million

Like Semin, there are red flag issues on Kostitsyn about his character. He was suspended during the playoffs for drinking and partying the night before a game and he didn't produce much during the regular season either. His point totals have slowly dipped for the past five seasons and he's now a 20-30 point per year guy. If he's not producing points, there's not too much to like about Kostitsyn so I'm hoping the Stars stay away from this one. They need to look elsewhere for their top-six concerns.

Shane Doan RW - Phoenix Coyotes

Age: 35 (36 later this year)
6'1"/~220 lbs
2011-2012 cap hit: $4.55 million

This might be pretty blasphemous considering what Doan did to Benn last season and what Stars fans generally think of Doan (classiest head hunter in the league, no?). There's no doubt he's a solid player and he's still durable despite his age. Still though, he's played for a rival for his entire career and I just can't see Dallas interested in him.

The remainder of the free agency players are guys that will populate the grinder lines, something the Stars really don't need. I'd like Dallas to just keep the fourth line as young players to help them develop and get used to the NHL level and for the third line to be something like Nystrom, Fiddler and Morrow. They just need a couple of guys to fill out the top lines and going after Whitney, Parenteau and Hudler would be more than enough if they can't convince Parise to sign here.

Dallas may have a ton of cap room but unfortunately it's just not a deep free agent class (unlike next year) so it doesn't mean that they absolutely have to spend to the limit. They need to be smart with their money.

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