Sunday at noon, the flood gates open on free agency and the Penguins have positioned themselves to be major players. With a ton of salary cap space, the opportunity to play with elite talents such as Sidney Crosby and the luxury of being a Stanley Cup contender, the Penguins seem to present a enticing situation for any free agent.
Clearly their biggest needs (or wants) are a top six winger and a defenseman. But beyond the two biggest names being tossed around - Zach Parise and Ryan Suter (above) - who is out there for the Penguins to pursue? Not much.
Here are the 10 unrestricted free agents who would make the most sense for the Penguins to sign (or re-sign in one case):
1.) Zach Parise (right), LW, Devils
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $6 million
2011-12 Statistics: 82 games, 31 goals, 38 assists, 69 penalty minutes.
What he offers: Arguably the best player on the unrestricted free agent market, Parise will have plenty of suitors on Sunday. In addition to being a threat for 30-40 goals, Parise is a first-rate defensive player who can be the first over the boards for the penalty kill. With a ton of salary cap space and a relationship with Crosby, the Penguins figure to be a favorite to lure in Parise.
2.) Ryan Suter, D, Predators
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $3.5 million
2011-12 Statistics: 79 games, 7 goals, 39 assists, 46 points, 30 penalty minutes.
What he offers: The best defenseman in a lean free agent market, Suter will command a hefty salary. Considering second-rate defensemen such as Dennis Wideman are commanding north of $5 million a season, a bona fide No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman such as Suter could make a case for $8 or $9 million. Suter is capable of playing more than 25 minutes a night and in all situations. And at 27, he probably hasn't his prime yet. A lot of the Penguins' issues on defense would be erased with Suter on board.
3.) Matt Carle (right), D, Flyers
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $3,437,500
2011-12 Statistics: 82 games, 4 goals, 34 assists, 38 points, 36 penalty minutes.
What he offers: Carle is somewhat lost in the shuffle in Philadelphia with the considerable depth the Flyers have on the blue line. On many teams, he would be a No. 1. In Philadelphia, he was a No. 3 or 4 some night. Again, with the market being so lean, he'll get a lot of big offers. While he's hardly physical, an attribute the Penguins could use more of on their blue line, he is capable of playing in all sort of situations and producing some offense, including on the power play. Additionally, he's been durable having played more than 80 games in each of his past three seasons.
4.) Ray Whitney, LW, Coyotes
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $3.55 million.
2011-12 Statistics: 82 games, 24 goals, 53 assists, 77 points, 28 penalty minutes.
What he offers: At 40, Whitney would obviously be a short-term solution to finding a winger for Crosby. That said, Whitney knows how to play with elite talents such as Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. From a mental standpoint, Whitney understands the game at their level. Additionally, he could serve the role Bill Guerin and Gary Roberts filled in the past with the Penguins as a respective veteran voice in the dressing room.
5.) Shane Doan (right), RW, Coyotes
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $4.55 million
2011-12 Statistics: 79 games, 22 goals, 28 assists, 50 points, 48 penalty minutes.
What he offers: Like Whitney, Doan would fill the role of Crosby's scoring winger for a short term basis. Unlike Whitney, Doan gets the job done more with his physical play instead of his skill. That's not to say Doan isn't talented. He's a consistent 20-goal threat. With Crosby, he could be a 30-goal threat. Additionally, he's not afraid to mix it up physically and could serve as a protector for Crosby. Doan is a passionate player who has never won the Stanley Cup. A chance to play with Crosby with a legit contender could lure him from the desert.
6.) Steve Sullivan, LW, Penguins
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $1.5 million
2011-12 Statistics: 79 games, 17 goals, 31 assists, 48 points, 20 penalty minutes.
What he offers: Another short-term option, Sullivan displayed chemistry last season playing on a line with Crosby and Pascal Dupuis. He also played a large role in the Penguins' power play improving last season as he manned the point serving as the unit's "quarterback." While he did play 79 games last season, injuries have always been a risk with Sullivan. And he's hardly a strong five-on-five player. That all said, you know what you'll likely get with Sullivan based on last season's results.
7.) Dustin Penner (right), LW, Kings
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $4.25 million
2011-12 Statistics: 65 games, 7 goals, 10 assists, 17 points, 43 penalty minutes.
What he offers: This is a player who has the highest risk and potentially the highest reward. Which is the Dustin Penner? The one which slumped through a disaster of a regular season? Or the one who gelled immediately with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter on Los Angeles' second line in the postseason and became a top-notch net-front presence? Conditioning and speed has always been a question with Penner, but his hands are legit considering he has had 20 or more goals in four out of his six NHL seasons. Keeping him motivated for 82 games could be a challenge, but the team's culture under Dan Bylsma finds ways to keep everyone on their toes. That said, Penner could be hesitant to leave the Stanley Cup champions after his successful postseason.
8.) P.A. Parenteau, RW, Islanders
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $1.25 million
2011-12 Statistics: 80 games, 18 goals, 49 assists, 67 points, 89 penalty minutes.
What he offers: Parenteau is sort of a poor man's Whitney. He knows how to play with elite players and how to produce. Playing along side John Tavare the past two seasons, he has score 120 points. On the downside, he's not a particularly large, physical player and he doesn't have a ton of speed either. Usually, you need one of those attributes to play with Crosby. Parenteau has been linked to the Penguins in rumors for parts of three seasons. If they lose out on someone like Parise, could Parenteau be a consolation prize?
9.) Filip Kuba (right), D, Senators
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $3.7 million
2011-12 Statistics: 73 games, 6 goals, 26 assists, 32 points, 26 penalty minutes.
What he offers: Much like former Penguins defenseman Jordan Leopold, Kuba doesn't do anything in a spectacular fashion but he manages to do everything correctly. Despite some impressive size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), he's hardly a physical player but he can skate and can make smart plays with the puck. Additionally, he contributes in all three areas by logging big minutes in even-strength, power-play and shorthanded situations. At 35, Kuba can be prone to injuries. But when healthy, he can be a solid, responsible presence on the blue line.
10.) Bryan Allen, D, Hurricanes
2011-12 Salary Cap Hit: $2.9 million
2011-12 Statistics: 82 games, 1 goals, 13 assists, 14 points, 76 penalty minutes.
What he offers: A poor man's Hal Gill, Allen is a big nasty mean defenseman the Penguins haven't really had since... well... Hal Gill. With Zbynenk Michalek gone, Allen could become the team's chief shot blocker as he led the Hurricanes last season with 188 blocked shots. At 6-foot-5, 228 pounds, he could be the Penguins' largest player. His game is very one-dimension however as he offers very little in terms of offense. That said, the dimension he does offer is exactly what the Penguins need.
Also receiving votes: Francis Bouillon, D, Predators; Carlo Colaiacovo, D, Blues; Jason Garrison (right), D, Panthers; Scott Hannan, D, Flames; Jiri Hudler, LW, Red Wings; Mike Knuble, RW, Capitals; Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, Blues; Bryce Salvador, D, Devils; Lee Stempniak, RW, Flames.
Do not touch with a 10-foot pole: Adrian Aucoin, D, Coyotes; Jason Blake, LW, Ducks; Andrew Brunette, LW, Blackhawks; Brad Boyes, RW, Sabres; Chris Campoli, D, Canadiens; Joe Corvo, D, Bruins; Mark Eaton, D, Islanders; Niklas Hagman, LW, Ducks; Kristian Huselius, LW, Blue Jackets; Milan Jurcina, D, Islanders; Andrei Kostitsyn, RW, Predators; Brian Rolston, LW, Bruins; Michal Rozsival, D, Coyotes; Alexander Semin, RW, Capitals; Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Panthers; Sheldon Souray, D, Stars; Greg Zanon, D, Bruins.
Not going to happen: Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Red Wings; Jaromir Jagr, RW, Flyers; Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, Devils; Teemu Selanne, RW, Ducks; Ryan Smyth, LW, Oilers; Petr Sykora, RW, Devils.
(Photos: Suter-Christian Petersen/Getty Images; Parise and Carle-Al Bello/Getty Images; Doan-Gregory Shamus/Getty Images; Penner-Bruce Bennett/Getty Images; Kuba-Nick Laham/Getty Images; Garrison-Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)