Free agency is a great time of the NHL off-season because it gives fans a chance to look at all the unsigned free-agents and fantasize about them playing for their team. Its fun to fantasize but reality is another thing altogether. The question becomes, are these guys a good fit for a team like the Florida Panthers?
Ryan Suter (D)
This guy is good, he's Brian Campbell kind of good. Last year Suter put up 46 points for the Nashville Predators. He's a big defenseman at 6-1 and 198 pounds. He's not a big goal scorer but his talent for the assist more than makes up for that. Suter's contract cost the Preds a $3.5 million cap hit in the 2011-12 season and I think that's a bargain. I think Suter would be a good fit for the Cats but the only problem with that scenario is Jason Garrison who is up for a big pay raise this year. If the Panthers keep Garrison there's not much chance they'll spend money defenseman like Suter but if Garrison goes to another team Suter could fit in quite nicely.
Zach Parise (LW)
This guy is probably one of my favorite players in the league. The only problem with Parise, besides the huge contract he'll demand, is his position. Left wing is one of the areas where the Cats don't need too much help. In 2011-12 two of the Panthers' three highest point scorers, Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg came from the left wing position. If the Cats were to sign another guy then one of those two may have to slide down to the third line and that would be a crime against hockey.
Shane Doan (RW)
If the Panthers need help on depth anywhere it's at right wing. Doan is an interesting guy. He's 35 years old which makes him no spring chicken but he would deliver a veteran presence on the ice. His age is one issue and his price tag is another. Last season Doan cost the Phoenix Coyotes a $4.5 cap hit but if the Cats don't plan on keeping Mikael Samuelsson around, Doan could be a good option.
P.A. Parenteau (RW)
This guy has taken the NHL by storm in the last couple of years. In the 2011-12 season Parenteau put up 67 points for the New York Islanders, which is more points than any one player on the Panthers team scored all last season. The best thing about Parenteau is that in 2011-12 he only made $1.2 million. This kid could be a real steal for the right team. That is if the Isles don't re-sign him first.
The Panthers' general manager Dale Tallon has a good eye for the free-agent market. Nothing would surprise me this offseason. If someone told me a few years ago that the Cats would have Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell on the ice I would have laughed at them but the team has definitely entered into a new era and the Panthers are no longer a team anyone can laugh at.
More from this contributor:
All stats and facts from Yahoo! Sports
All contract information from CapGeek
Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida and has been a part of the Florida hockey community for the past twenty years. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein