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2012 free agent class stacked with 'D'

Ryan Suter is widely considered the belle of the 2012 free agent ball. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Ryan Suter is widely considered the belle of the 2012 free agent ball. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Teams seeking scoring punch and quality goaltending in this summer's unrestricted free agent market will find slim pickings, but those in search of blueline depth will have better luck.

The Calgary Sun's Randy Sportak last week observed teams seeking to build a blueline quickly can choose from Nashville's Ryan Suter, Detroit's Brad Stuart, St. Louis' Barret Jackman, Carolina's Bryan Allen and Philadelphia's trio of Matt Carle, Nicklas Grossman and Pavel Kubina.

Other defensemen potentially available include Washington's Dennis Wideman, Chicago's Johnny Oduya, Nashville's Hal Gill, Boston's Greg Zanon and Minnesota's Kurtis Foster.

FORWARD MARKET FILLED WITH ROLE PLAYERS


Sportak also noted the market will be deep in versatile forwards. Boston's Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, Colorado's David Jones, L.A.'s Jarret Stoll, Montreal's Travis Moen, Nashville's Paul Gaustad, San Jose's Dominic Moore and the New York Islanders' P.A. Parenteau were among those making his list.

The stars of the free agent class are New Jersey left winger Zach Parise and Nashville defenseman Ryan Suter, but if they do test the market, they won’t be available for long and only a handful of clubs (mostly those with a good chance of contending for the Stanley Cup) will be in the bidding for their services.

STILL STARS...FOR NOW


Defenseman Sheldon Souray and left winger Steve Ott breathed sighs of relief when the trade deadline passed and they remained with the Dallas Stars.

Ott, who's spent his nine-year NHL career with the Stars, admitted in a recent interview he was bothered by the trade rumors, adding he made it clear he wanted to remain with the Stars.

Souray, meanwhile, acknowledged it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to be moved to a certain playoff contender to bolster his free agent value, but said he couldn't imagine playing for any other team right now than the Stars.

The fact Stars management was at least willing to listen to offers for both casts a bit of a cloud over their respective futures in Dallas.

Ott, 29, has two more seasons remaining on his contract at an average annual cap hit of $2.95 million and lacks a movement clause. He could attract interest from clubs seeking to bolster their grit.

Souray, 35, could be moving on if the Stars decide not to re-sign him before July 1. With 20 points in 53 games and a plus-16 rating, he could earn a nice raise over the $1.7 million he earned on his one-year deal with the Stars.

Still, if he wants to remain in Dallas, he could accept less than market value to do so. After all, Nieuwendyk saved Souray's NHL career by signing him last summer when no one else would.

WOLSKI LOVES THE SUNSHINE STATE


New Florida Panthers right winger Wojtek Wolski is hoping to stick with the club beyond this season.

A first round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche, Wolski was once considered among the most promising young forwards in the NHL following his 50-point debut in 2006-07. But he failed to build on those numbers and in 2010, the Avs shipped him to the Phoenix Coyotes.

His 18 points in as many games with the Coyotes showed promise, but again Wolski failed to improve and last January was shipped to the New York Rangers.

A nagging groin injury kept him out of the lineup for 26 games this season and upon his recovery he was unable to crack the Rangers roster.

In his first six games with Florida, Wolski has had a promising start, with two goals and an assist, but his future with the Panthers and his NHL career in general could depend on his play over the remainder of this season.

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner. 

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