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Every year on the first of July teams in the NHL have a chance to make a huge impact on their current roster by signing unrestricted free agents. This year, more than many others, has some pieces that could really become the cornerstone of the franchise who acquire them. Zach Parise will be the focus of almost all of the talk going into and during the deadline as he is an already established franchise player. But this does not mean that he is the only player of impact on the market as plenty of other dynamic and intriguing players will be looking for a new home in the month of July and possibly into August and September.

The headliners and most exciting players in free agency usually come out of the pool of forwards available and this year is no different. The Montreal Canadiens will also be taking a hard look at this pool of free agents. Montreal could use another bottom 6 winger with scoring potential as well as one or even two top 6 wingers. Ahead we look at the headliners, bargain buys and the other guys of the forward pool of 2012 Unrestricted Free Agents.

The Headliners:

Zach Parise

Left Winger, 27
2011-12 Cap Hit: $6 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 82 GP 31 G 38 A 69 P

All 30 NHL teams would love to have a player like Parise on their roster. As captain of the New Jersey Devils,
he has already shown plenty of leadership qualities usually reserved for players older then him. He is also the kind of hardworking player that becomes almost impossible to stop when he wants something. During the 2011-12 Stanley Cup Playoffs he helped lead the Devils all the way to the Cup Final. He has also shown a similar drive with the American national team. While it is a given that the Canadiens would want a player of Parise’s quality getting him to come to Montreal will be difficult. Montreal does not really have the talent nor the salary that some other NHL teams would be offering and therefore Parise will probably take a pass on their offer if they make one. Parise will probably be looking to sign a long-term contract.

Alexander Semin

Right Wing, 28
2011-12 Cap Hit: $6.7 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 77 GP 21 G 33 A 54 P

Alexander Semin on any given night can be one of the most deadly snipers in the National Hockey League. However, whether he has the drive to be that player on any given night is questionable. His numbers have certainly slipped since a 40 goal campaign two years ago that also saw him put in 84 points. But you can still count on Semin for more then 20 goals every season. Again the problem for Montreal would be Semin’s salary. He will probably expect a multi year deal with a cap hit greater then 5 million. Unless Montreal move some pieces around they will not be able to match this value. Semin is probably more likely to come to the Canadiens then Parise, as Montreal have a couple of Russian players including Andrei Markov who could be a draw for Semin. Furthermore less teams will be in the market for him then they will for Parise. The KHL is always an option with Semin but at the moment I would assume that is in the back of his mind.

Jiri Hudler

Centre, 28
2011-12 Cap Hit: $2.875 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 81 GP 25 G 25 A 50 P

While centre isn’t one of the places that Montreal really need more players Hudler is one of the most interesting players available in free agency. He has shown plenty of talent the past couple of years alongside some of the best in Detroit but can he match these numbers with teams who do not have the same star power remains to be seen. Hudler is a player who can be counted on to produce around 50 points and 15-20 goals each year and doesn’t have the biggest
potential cap hit on the market. For the Habs it would be difficult to understand their rationale if they went for Hudler with
David Desharnais and Tomas Plekanec already looking to be the top 2 centres this year with
Lars Eller at number 3 once again. Hudler may end up going to the KHL if the right deal, multi-year at
$3 million or over, doesn’t appear.

Shane Doan

Right Wing, 35
2011-12 Cap Hit: $4.55 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 79 GP 22 G 28 A 50 P

Doan is one of the best leaders in the NHL, hands down. This year he had his best ever season in terms of team results as his
Phoenix Coyotes, the organization he has spent his entire career with (he was a
member of the Jets and moved with the team), advancing to the Conference Finals. But it seems as if Doan is fed up with what has been going on in
Phoenix and is looking for a new home. Montreal just might be a great fit. Doan would make a great leader that Montreal doesn’t necessarily have in Brian Gionta and would provide some decent statistics on top of it. Carey Price is Doan’s cousin, which may prove to be a draw for the aging forward. Doan will probably be looking for a shorter deal, 2 to 3 years but the cap hit could be fairly high. Not a huge chance that he will sign with the Canadiens but don’t count them out either as some of his other suitors will be focused on securing other players.

Jaromir Jagr

Right Wing, 40
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $3.3 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 73 GP 19 G 35 A 54 P

When Jagr left the NHL for the KHL in 2008 it seemed he would never play another NHL game. However, years later he is back and thriving in that very same league. Once one of the NHL’s best players Jagr proved this season that he still has what it takes to play in this league. He seemed to be a great leader with his teammates and many of the team’s players, including Claude Giroux. Jagr would make a great winger for the Canadiens alongside fellow Czech
Republic native Tomas Plekanec. If he available at 3 million dollars or under he is worth a shot. Will probably be looking for at maximum a 2 to 3 year deal.

P.A Parenteau

Right Wing, 29
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $1.25 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 80 GP 18 G 49 A 67 P

Quebec is of course the home province of P.A Parenteau. Does this mean he is any more likely to sign with the Canadiens? Not necessarily. Parenteau was a bit of a late bloomer for the Islanders who acquired him
from their cross-town rivals the New York Rangers. Post-acquisition he translated directly into a positive having two incredible seasons with one of the worst teams in the
league. The question with Parenteau is can he match this recent talent as he
goes into his 30’s or is it a fluke. If he plays like he has recently he is good
for about 20 goals and upwards of 50 points. Worth a look from Montreal
certainly as he has the potential to be a “home run” pickup. Will be looking for
a contract that would at least triple his previous salary for around 5 years.

Brad Boyes

Right Wing, 30
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $4 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 65 GP 8 G 15 A 23 P

Boyes was once considered a far hotter commodity then he currently is. With the Blues in the 2007-08 season he had over 40 goals and was considered a big acquisition when the Buffalo Sabres picked him up two years ago. Since going to Buffalo, Boyes has not turned out the way the Sabres would have wanted him to. With only 23 points this last season Boyes didn’t come even close to earning his fairly large
$4 million salary. But teams will probably still be taking a decent look at Boyes who could still end up producing if put in the right situation.

Andrei Kostitsyn

Left Wing, 27
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $3.25 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 72 GP 16 G 20 A 36 P

When Andrei Kostitsyn is motivated he can be the best player on the ice for both teams. Some games he will show up and put in a first star performance. Then the next game he will come and put in a performance that will contribute greatly to his teams’ loss. This inconsistency in effort and desire has plagued
his career and made him a disappointing pick for a Canadiens team in a 2003 draft that had plenty of elite NHL talent. In reality Kostitsyn
could be that talented, we have seen flashes of the dominance that this player can bring against any team in this league. If some coach can find a way to get that out of him this could be a “home run” acquisition. However, in terms of the Montreal Canadiens this is a move that probably won’t happen. When they sent him to Nashville at the deadline I feel that was the last we will ever see Andrei Kostitsyn in a Canadiens uniform.
He will be looking for a $3-4 million deal with at least 4 years on the contract.

Olli Jokinen

Centre, 33
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $3 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 82 GP 23 G 38 A 61 P

Jokinen is getting pretty old. At 33 he will be a big risk for any team that pick him up in free agency. But it could be a risk that potentially pays off in a huge way. This past season Jokinen played very well scoring 23 goals and 61 points on a Calgary Flames team that certainly wasn’t among the league’s elite. Jokinen also played all 82 games in the regular season which demonstrates that he at least has a certain amount of endurance left. For any teams in the market for a centre come July 1st Olli Jokinen is worth a look. Montreal isn’t in the market for a centre and therefore Olli isn’t a great fit but for other teams this could be a good short-term signing.

Ryan Smyth

Left Wing, 36
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $6.25 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 82 GP 19 G 27 A 46 P

The big thing with Ryan Smyth is what he asks for in terms of salary. What Smyth brings hasn’t changed. He is an excellent secondary scorer who can help the power play and is a big presence in front of the net. He also has leadership abilities that every NHL team desires. However, all of those qualities could quickly be overshadowed by how much
Smyth asks for in return for them. At 36 he isn’t getting any younger and certainly isn’t worth his 2011-12
cap hit of $6.25 million. But at a one year to three years maximum, $3 million or lower deal Smyth could still be quite an effective signing. If the Habs can get him short term and at a low price Smyth would be a nice player to bring in and fill in the void at second line left wing.

Teemu Selanne

Right Wing, 41
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $4 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 82 GP 26 G 40 A 66 P

Whatever happens I would be surprised if Selanne didn’t remain a Duck, whether through retiring or resigning a one year deal with the team. However Selanne has surprised before when he joined a Colorado Avalanche team that was paying top dollar for talent. That may happen again as big money could allure Selanne away from the Ducks if it is somehow offered. Selanne still has plenty of the talent that has made him one of if not the best Finnish players to ever play the game. Unless
he has some reason for wanting to play for Montreal and will come cheap he is probably not the best fix at right wing.

Dustin Penner

Left Wing, 29
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $4.25 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 65 GP 7 G 10 A 17 P

Penner had a very disappointing season last year. A disappointing regular season that is. When the Stanley Cup was on the line
he played some of the best hockey of his career driving his free agency status way up from the position it would be. Penner has had some excellent seasons in the past and teams will be hoping he can duplicate them if they sign him July 1st or after. What Penner brings when he is playing his game is size and an ability to score, while not demonstrated during the regular season certainly demonstrated during the playoffs. While I like playoff performers I don’t know if Penner is worth the risk for the Canadiens unless the comes at a fairly low cost and a short term deal.

Ray Whitney

Left Wing, 40
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $3 Million
2011-12 Statistics: 82 GP 24 G 53 A 77 P

Ray Whitney had an incredible season this year as a member of the Phoenix Coyotes and was one of the main reasons why they won their division and made it to the Conference Finals for the first time in club history. With 77 points this past season
he earned every penny and more of his contract as many teams will now be looking at him in a market of forwards that is not deep at the left wing position, if not deep at all. At a one to two year deal Whitney could be a great signing for the Canadiens and could end up luring a player like Shane Doan, although
the cap would become and issue at that point. Money and term matter largely in any Whitney deal.