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NHL Free Agent Watch

The Los Angeles Kings just won the Stanley Cup with the most impressive playoff run since the 1988 Oilers. Next year, they might top that great Gretzky-led team.

Why? Because with $16 million in the bank and a rich free agent class waiting this offseason, the Kings are destined to add to an already talented and successful core.

The only thing that can slow LA down now is their owner – and 29 of his business partners.

With the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement pending, it is uncertain how the salary cap will be affected next season. An intake of more than $3.3 billion in 2011-12 set a league revenue record for the seventh consecutive year. Overall, revenue is up nearly 200 percent from the 2003-04 season, according to Buffalo Business First.

Currently, players receive 57 percent of NHL earnings, and while the income total suggests that the salary cap ceiling should be set at $73.8 million, it is likely that the owners will negotiate the players down to a lesser share of the profits, dropping the ceiling to a more reasonable number.

In order to conduct offseason affairs, the salary cap is temporarily set at $70.3 million. When (or if) the season starts, that number could fluctuate.

Presently, every team has an extra $6 million in spending money this summer. That means every team will be a player in the free agent frenzy.

Good news for you, Zach Parise.

The New Jersey Devils left winger has scored 30 or more goals in five consecutive healthy seasons. Unrestricted and coming off a $6 million contract, Parise figures to be this offseason’s hottest commodity.

There is no shortage of suitors for the skilled 27-year-old. Pittsburgh, Detroit, Minnesota and New Jersey will all compete for his services.

Parise was drafted by the Eastern Conference champion Devils and has played all seven of his seasons with the team. New Jersey has a fellow superstar in Illya Kovalchuk and future studs who looked poised to keep the Devils in contention for years to come.

Parise won’t come cheap – speculation hovers around $9 million yearly. But with $28 million in space, New Jersey has plenty of cash to offer. Unfortunately for GM Lou Lamoriello, Detroit has just as much cap room and the Penguins recently carved out nearly $15 million in space after dealing Jordan Staal.

Parise—a 45-goal-scorer—and Sidney Crosby are connected through their alma mater of Shattuck St. Mary’s, and could together form the most dominant scoring line in the NHL.

A comfortable situation with a current contender who has a bright future is the perfect mix for any free agent. But the opportunity to play with the world’s greatest player may be too much to pass up for Parise.

Consider New Jersey and Pittsburgh the frontrunners for Parise.photo by Christen Peterson-Getty Images

One player likely not to stay in their current location is Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter. With a market value nearly double that of his current $3.5 million contract, the most likely team to ante up is Detroit.

Pittsburgh is interested as well, but the Pens courtship of Parise will likely dismiss them from any legitimate chance of landing both.

Detroit’s experience up front and youth in net make them a Cup contender. Now that seven-time Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom has retired, though, the only thing missing from Hockeytown’s roster is a superstar defenseman. No team will pursue the American blueliner harder.

photo by ElliotLike many of his free agent peers, Phoenix’s Shane Doan is an aging veteran with a closing window to win a Stanley Cup. Doan, 36 by the start of next season, has played his entire career with Phoenix/Winnipeg and finally got a taste of winning when the franchise advanced to their first ever conference final last year.

Los Angeles and Boston are both possible landing spots for the right wing, but the mutual love between Phoenix and himself looks too strong to separate the couple.

Perhaps the most intriguing free agent in this year’s class is Alex Semin. Charges of a lackluster work ethic, poor attitude and big game invisibility have followed Semin since his inaugural NHL season in 2002-03. He dazzled in 2009-10 with 40 goals and 80 points, but followed up the breakout campaign with consecutive sub-30 goal seasons.

photo by Michael MillerSemin might be unhappy, unmotivated or uncomfortable. Possibly it is all three. What is known is that the 28-year-old has a great rapport with Red Wings star and fellow countryman Pavel Datsyuk.

They are often paired during international play, and, if Parise returns to the Devils, Detroit will still be in the market for a dynamic offensive threat.

Look for Los Angeles to vie hard for Semin as well. The Kings have shown a knack for converting problem-child players into productive performers.

Jaromir Jagr is the final notable free agent this offseason.

photo by Michael MillerSo where will the aging Flyer will land?

We can narrow his destination to two leagues and 56 teams. The rest is up to you.

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