The NHLs version of Christmas morning is right around the corner.
On Sunday, July 1, virtually every NHL club will begin its attempt to present the biggest gift to its fan base in the form of a prized free agent acquisition. Here is a look at eight potential unrestricted free agents, in no particular order, that might garner some interest from the San Jose Sharks and that realistically could end up with the team (sorry, but I just don't see Zach Parise in teal).
Did we miss any? Who would you like to see in a Sharks uniform, and whom are you not interested in? Let us know in the comments section below.
REALTED: Sharks' free agent frenzy
Ryan Suter (D) The undisputed top free agent defenseman out there, its already been reported that Suters preference is to remain in the Western Conference. At 27 years of age and in the prime of his career, hes not going to come cheap, and could demand somewhere around 7 million a year for the next 10 seasons. The Sharks and Doug Wilson have stayed away from contracts of such magnitude in the past, but would they make an exception for Suter? If they did, it would almost certainly spell the end of Dan Boyles career in a Sharks uniform, but the blue line would be upgraded as a whole for years to come.
Kurz says: A top-four defense of Ryan Suter, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brad Stuart would be one of the best in the NHL. Making a hard push for Suter makes sense, especially because the rival Red Wings are going to do the same.
Alex Semin (RW) The Washington winger, a one-time 40-goal scorer in 2009-10, is coming off of back-to-back 54-point seasons. While his talent has never been in question, his motivation and work ethic has been described as less than stellar. Semins recent playoff numbers also leave a lot to be desired, as he has just 12 points in his last 30 playoff games. Still, he can put up big offensive numbers.
Kurz says: Id stay away from the 28-year-old. Although he might provide some much-needed scoring depth, the team already has enough players that seem to suffer through lengthy scoring droughts and can become invisible for weeks at a time (see Havlat, Marty and Marleau, Patrick).
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Paul Gaustad (C) Another Nashville free-agent-to-be, Paul Gaustad had 21 points and 76 penalty minutes in 70 games with the Sabres and Predators last season. One stat that is sure to make the Sharks at least somewhat intrigued is that the rugged, defensively responsible center had a 57.3 percent faceoff percentage last season. Gaustad would likely command between 2-3 million per season.
Kurz says: The 30-year-old Gaustad would be a huge upgrade over Michal Handzus as the third line center. Hes certainly worth a phone call.
Matt Carle (D) A week ago, it seemed a near certainty that Carle was going to re-sign with Philadelphia, which was unable to ink him to a deal before July 1 due to salary cap restrictions. But after Dennis Widemans monster deal in Calgary, Carle appears set to test the open waters. Carle isnt flashy, but hes solid in his own end and can provide some offensive punch on the power play as evidenced by his four goals and 34 assists in 82 games last season. Carle, of course, was originally drafted by the Sharks and spent his first three seasons here. Its a good bet he still has some fans within the organization.
Kurz says: The 27-year-old Carle is another option if the Sharks want to try and move on from the veteran Boyle (whom they could use as trade bait for a scoring winger, and who Carle was traded for in 2008). Carle is not as skilled as Suter, but he is undoubtedly a top-four defenseman in the NHL and should have several excellent years ahead of him.
Daniel Winnik (LW) Winnik, 27, may be the only Sharks free-agent-to-be that the club is trying to re-sign, and with good reason. Winnik brought good energy and even a few timely goals to the bottom two lines during his short tenure with San Jose after a trade with Colorado, and has thrived in an aggressive penalty-killing scheme before, which is what the Sharks are expected to employ next season. While Winnik may want to see what else is out there, he seemed to enjoy playing in San Jose and would probably welcome a return if both sides truly want to get a deal done.
Kurz says: As long as the club can keep Winnik in the 1-1.5 million range, it would seem to make sense to try and bring him back. If another team wants to pay him more than that, the Sharks should let him walk.
RELATED: Previewing Sharks' free agent frenzy
Arron Asham (RW) The 34-year-old Asham is the kind of player that you have to be aware of if youre an opponent. He doesnt have the most skill, but has managed to top 20 points in a season in six times through hard work and a sneaky good shot. More than that, though, is that Asham is a hard working role player that will drop the gloves in defense of a teammate any time, any place.
Kurz says: The most important thing in having a team is having each others back and being there for each other, Doug Wilson said on June 18. Asham has made a career out of doing just that, and could be an ideal fit if hes willing to play on the West Coast.
Lee Stempniak (RW) When I posed the question of free agents on Twitter Stempniak's name came up a few times, and upon closer inspection the 29-year-old could be a good fit for the Sharks. Although hes generally been a streaky scorer, Stempniak would be an obvious upgrade as a third line winger over Torrey Mitchell. He has 66 points in 132 games, and can also help to kill penalties.
Kurz says: Stempniak would be worth exploring as long as he isnt looking for a deal for more than three years.
Ray Whitney (LW) The veteran Whitney, now 40, is coming off of an impressive season that saw him record nearly a point-per-game (24g, 53a in 82 games). The one-time Shark would add some scoring punch to the lineup, provided his advancing age doesnt catch up to him, and is probably looking for a team thats built to win now. Although Shane Doan is the most prominent free agent from Phoenix, I dont see him ending up with San Jose. Whitney, though, just might.
Kurz says: Although Whitneys year was impressive and his veteran leadership would be welcomed in the Sharks locker room, he wasnt as effective in the playoffs. Unless the team cant find anyone younger, Id look another direction. If its still the middle of July and the Sharks havent upgraded their scoring depth, Whitney could be a good option.