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8 Free Agents That Make Sense for the Penguins

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Pittsburgh is looking to make a free agent splash. With $12 million cleared in salary cap space, every free agent this summer is in play for the Penguins. Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Alex Semin; any of them could be wearing a Pittsburgh sweater next season.

After leading the NHL in shots-per-game and goals-per-game, it is obvious that Pittsburgh doesn’t need help on the offensive end---even with the loss of Jordan Staal. The focus will be on defense, but in a forward-heavy market there are not a lot of blueline options available.

So who is a good fit for the Penguins? Here are eight options:

1.) Zach Parise, Left Wing -- SIGNED WITH MINNESOTA: The prize free agent of 2012. It won’t be easy to peel him away from New Jersey. He is the captain of the current Eastern Conference champions and has never skated for another team. If he was intent on staying in Newark, however, the 27-year-old would not be testing free agency.

Not since his rookie season has Parise scored less than 30 goals when healthy. The left wing is fast, relentless and ultra-competitive. Sound familiar? Paired with Sidney Crosby, the American has 50 goal potential. Defensively, he is sound but not spectacular. Working on a line with Crosby and 25-goal-scorer Pascal Dupuis though, his minor defensive flaws are easily masked.

Currently playing on a $6 million contract, Parise is due for a major financial boost. Pittsburgh won’t offer more than the $8.7 million that Crosby is making, but there are many other intangibles that could bring the superstar to Western Pennsylvania.

2.) Ryan Suter, Defense -- SIGNED WITH MINNESOTA: Defensively responsible, offensively smart and a leader in the lockerroom. There is a reason why he is the most coveted defenseman on the market.

The Nashville Predator is an every situation defender who averaged 26:30 of ice time last season---almost a full two minutes more than the Penguins on-ice leader Kris Letang.

At $3.5 million per year, Suter is expected to nearly double his salary. His price is inflated due to the fact that he is the only star defenseman in the free agent class. Detroit will be hard to compete with but Suter shies away from the spotlight and Pittsburgh is a perfect place for someone who wants to avoid the media.

3.) PA Parenteau, Right Wing -- SIGNED WITH COLORADO: At 29, the right winger is looking for the first big contract of his career.

Parenteau recorded 38 goals and 120 points in his last two seasons with Islanders. Most importantly, he is a defensive player first. Cerebral and responsible, Parenteau is a puck-hawk and force in his own zone. He is also a set-up man. The Islander forward played on a line with a very similar player to Crosby in Jonathan Tavares.

Should the bid for Parise fall through, Parenteau would be a great fit alongside no. 87.photo by Benjamin Reed

4.) Bryan Allen, Defense -- SIGNED WITH ANAHEIM: Pittsburgh was 29th in blocked shots last year and sported only two of the top 65 shot blockers in the NHL. Compare that to Atlantic Division rival and the Eastern Conference runner up New York Rangers, who had two players in the top 10.

Since the hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2009, Pittsburgh has drifted away from the rugged defensive style that won them a championship. Allen can bring that presence back to the Penguins. The Hurricanes defenseman was fourth in the NHL in blocked shots last season and adds a massive reach to his already tight defensive game. At 6’5”, he is the big defenseman that Pittsburgh is missing.

5.) Shane Doan, Right Wing -- STILL UNSIGNED: For most teams, Doan would be higher than fifth on the list. The Coyote has scored a minimum of 20 goals in 11 of his last 12 NHL seasons. He is physical, responsible and committed to winning. But he is not the a great fit for Pittsburgh.

The 35-year-old is slowing and his production dropped by 10 points even though he played on perhaps his best NHL team ever. Doan is not a strong defensive player and doesn’t have the speed to keep up with the Penguins top lines.

Doan has a great shot and is the physical offenseman that opponents hate playing against. With a projected $5 million price tag though, he isn’t worth the risk for Pittsburgh.

6.) Matt Carle, Defense -- STILL UNSIGNED: A defender that most Pittsburghers are well aware of, Carle is a defensive defenseman. He blocks shots, jumps into the rush and is not a liability in his own end. At 27-years-old, he has plenty of hockey left.

Philadelphia expects to re-sign the defenseman even though he is ticketed to go for around $5 million. If you are looking for a player to sure up the defense while not sacrificing any offense, Carle is your man.

7.) Brett Clark, Defense -- STILL UNSIGNED: Aging at 35-years-old, Clark is a quick fix for a leaky defense. His $1.5 million tag won’t move much and it is a small price to pay for a rugged, tough defenseman. Clark was second in the NHL in blocked shots last season and added 118 hits. His nine goals in 2010-11 prove that he isn’t a total clutz with the puck, but don’t expect a wizard from the back end. He has trouble starting the rush and is prone to offensive errors.

8.) Colin White, Defense -- STILL UNSIGNED: Smart in his own zone and sound defensively, White is a cheaper version of Matt Carle. He can make the important outlet pass to start the rush but he won’t dazzle offensively. At 6’4”, he clogs the defensive zone and can dish a solid hit.

White is another quick fix who won’t be around long term but can make an immediate impact. If the Penguins do spend major money a high profile free agent, White is a nice patch for little money.

Neil Walker’s contract expires after the 2016 season. The Pirates second baseman is due for a big raise in arbitration this offseason, likely to $10 million.
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