Lost amid the plethora of sports news is the start of NHL Free agency in just a couple of days On July 1st. I did this same article for last year’s free agency, so here is the return edition of my free agency forecast. Each projection is done independent of the others which means teams could be suitors for multiple players even when that would max out their cap. All predictions are guaranteed to be 100% accurate…at least until the first player signs.

1) Ryan Suter D
Parise might get more hype, but Suter grabs the top spot here by a hair. The reason being that it’s very hard to find a #1 D-man in free agency because teams usually lock them up. Suter was overshadowed in Nashville by Shea Weber, but is just as talented. He could return to the Preds, or go to the Wings, but he might not want the pressure of trying to replace Lidstrom. He does want stability and a chance to win. Pittsburgh can provide that, with a younger core that will keep the team in contention for longer. Plus the Pens a have a need at the position, so will be aggressive.

2) Zach Parise LW
Easily getting the most talk, Parise is unquestionably the top forward available. His hometown team, Minnesota, will make a run at him, but they’re no where near being contenders. Pittsburgh has been heavily in on him, and if the Wings miss out on Suter, then expect them to go all in on Parise. The Devils are still strongly in the running despite no extension yet. He could easily go back to New Jersey or move on to Detroit, and I honestly am not sure which one.

3) Alexander Semin RW
He’s at the top of this list based on talent alone, but channeling that into production is the problem. With him being difficult at times and his goal totals dropping the past few seasons, team will be hesitant to commit. With that being said, I’m sure some team from Russia will swoop in with a boatload of cash to entice him and the starring role he craves.

4) Jason Garrison D
Re-signing Garrison is a top priority for the Panthers, but he’ll get a larger bump from his previous 700K salary on the open market with his laser of a shot from the point. Detroit could be in play, as could St Louis, Washington, Anaheim or Nashville if they lose Suter.However, he has expressed strong interest in playing for Vancouver and the Canucks will be happy to add them to their blueline.

5) Justin Schultz D
A very uniuque case, being a 21 year old and testing the free agent market. He couldn’t agree on a deal with Anaheim, the team that drafted him, so he’s available. The NY Rangers, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Detroit and Nashville will all be in the running, but Edmonton will be the winners. He’ll be able to grow with their impressive array of offensive talent.

6 Ray Whitney LW
While it’s not as big a lock as Brodeur returning to the Devils or Selanne to the Ducks, Whitney will come back to Phoenix. He might get bigger offers from other teams, such as the Kings, Rangers or Pens, but he’s comfortable with the Coyotes and won’t make any outrageous demands.

7) PA Parenteau RW
After a breakthrough season, Parenteau will cash in this offseason. Though he’s shown interest in returning to the LI, he and the Islanders have talking for months. He’ll draw interest from the usual teams like Toronto, Washington and Boston as well as sleepers such as Winnipeg, Florida or Buffalo. However, he’ll end up signing with his home province team in Montreal.

8) Matt Carle D
With the recent acquisition of Luke Schenn, it appears Carle is on his way out of Philly. He’s still a top flight blueliner and will attract plenty of interest, most likely from teams that miss out on Suter. That means Detroit or Pittsburgh will be involved or others like Phoenix or Anaheim. If Suter does bolt the Music City, Carle would be a good replacement for Nashville to pair with Weber.

9) Olli Jokinen C
Jokinen is an underrated player who quietly produces solid numbers. Continuing his career in Calgary is a possibility, but he could easily earn more on the open market. Anaheim, Chiacgo or a return to Florida are options, but he’ll go to a team like Dallas that needs some depth up the middle.

10) Shane Doan RW
If the Phoenix ownership situation had any sort of resolution by now, Doan would have re-signed. The uncertainty is causing him to at least test the market. He could be pursued by any number of teams looking for a leader and player like him, but the gut feeling is he’ll return to Phoenix to play for the only franchise he’s ever known.

11) Jiri Hudler RW
It looks like Hudler’s time at The Joe is coming to an end, and while he could re-sign, it’s more likely he’ll go elsewhere. Minnesota, Buffalo, Colorado and Dallas are teams that could all show interest in the Czech winger. He’ll sign with Carolina where he can be surrounded by talented linemates to maximize his output.

12) Ryan Smyth LW
Smyth and Edmonton are not close on an extension, but with him publicly saying he wants to stay with the Oilers, his bargaining power has been drastically reduced. A team like the Rangers could always make a surprise bid for his services, but it’s highly likely he’s headed back to Edmonton.

13) Andrei Kostitsyn LW/RW
Wherever Kostitsyn lands, it sure won’t be Nashville or Montreal. Florida, Minnesota and Colorado are options, as well as New Jersey if Parise leaves. It’s possible he could go to Washington once Semin leaves, plus maybe he could play on a line with Ovechkin.

14) Travis Moen LW
Moen is a physical, two way winger whose contributuons doesn’t always show up on stat sheet. Vancouver, Detroit, San Jose or either New York team will likely make offers, but he’ll resign with Montreal, whether that’s before or after July 1st.

15) Filip Kuba D
Kuba won’t be back in Ottawa next season, but he can still provide a veteran presence on the blueline for a Cup contender. That could mean teams like Pittsburgh, San Jose, St Louis or the Rangers could be in play. He’ll take his skills to Boston to help them get back to The Finals.

16) Jaromir Jagr RW
He’s still going at the age of 40, so he can still contribute, even if his production has decreased. Detroit or Boston could put a big offer on the table, but he’ll more then likely return to Philadelphia.

17) Dustin Penner LW
Penner benefited greatly from the Kings’ Cup run as he was able to make some key contributions after a horrid regular season that saw his production drop off across the board. If they had bowed out early, his market value would have been quite low. Teams like Washington, Ottawa or San Jose who need a big, physical winger are possibilities, but a return to Los Angeles seems to be in the cards based on reports.

18) Steve Sullivan RW
He wants to play at least one more year and there will be teams that could use his skills, but a return to Pittsburgh is very likely.

19) Sami Salo D
Salo is a veteran defenseman that will be able to contribute to a team, though not in a top pairing. He could fit with teams like Boston or San Jose, but going to Washington to join their group of blueline vets seems likely.

20) Paul Gaustad C
Gaustad was a hot topic at the trade deadline, but didn’t play that well with the Predators. Still, teams such as Chicago, NY Rangers, Vancouver or Detroit could use his skills in the faceoff circle. However, a return to Nashville could happen given what he can do for the team and what they gave up to get him.