Predators Suter heads thin list of NHL free agents

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Don’t blink, because you just might miss what few splashes are anticipated to take place in NHL free agency.

After Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and potentially New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise, the list of marquee players expected to hit the market at noon Sunday thins quickly.

“It’s very thin,” Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said this week. “The quality is there, the quantity isn’t there.”

That’s good for the players available because of the potential of driving up their asking price, but bad for Regier and the general managers competing against each other to fill their needs.

As Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said this month: “It’s a good year to be a free agent.”

Suter is the current headliner after the player’s agent, Neil Sheehy, confirmed Saturday that his client will test the market.

“I don’t know where Ryan is going to sign,” Sheehy told The Associated Press. “I do know he’s keeping Nashville in the mix, but he will hit free agency.”

That news isn’t a surprise, given that Predators general manager David Poile was expecting that to happen. Poile still isn’t ruling out the possibility of re-signing the hard-hitting seven-year veteran.

“In all the conversations we’ve had, he’s made it very clear that he has nothing against Nashville,” Poile said before last weekend’s NHL draft. “But he’s gone this far, and the longer we talk, it appears he’s going to take a look at July 1.”

Parise might follow, though the Devils are expected to make one last push to sign him.

There are numerous teams expected to take runs at one or both players.

The Detroit Red Wings could use an established defenseman such as Suter after Nicklas Lidstrom retired. The Wild are considered a potential landing spot for Parise, who is from the area.

Los Angeles forward Dustin Penner and Washington’s Alexander Semin head a secondary list of mid-range free agents. It’s a group that also includes Florida defenseman Jason Garrison and Detroit’s Jiri Hudler.

Then there’s a mixed bag of aging stars such as Jaromir Jagr, Shane Doan, Jason Arnott, Ray Whitney and Jamie Langenbrunner. And don’t forget the possibility of Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, who hired an agent on Friday in the event he doesn’t re-sign for a 20th season in New Jersey.

“We’re going to be active and very involved in free agency because we have cap space and holes we’d like to fill,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.

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