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2012 Free Agent Frenzy

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  By Tony DeFrancesco

This year the Blackhawks are the only team without an RFA which will give them more time to focus on improving the roster with outside additions. Among the UFA list, Sean O'Donnell, Andrew Brunette, Brendan Morrison, Sami Lepisto and Cristobal Huet are all officially no longer under contract with the Blackhawks and will not return. They also did not tender qualifying offers to Simon Danis-Pepin or Christopher DiDomenico.

There are plenty of big names that round out the UFA list, but if the Blackhawks strike out on the Ryan Suter's of the NHL then what types of players will they focus on?

With the core solidified they may not need to make the big move, but instead focus on role players that can help the team more-so than the Andrew Brunette's and Sean O'Donnell's of years past. Jay McClement and Paul Gaustad (although the later may come too expensive) could help bring in center depth that the Blackhawks have desperately lacked since winning the Cup in 2010. Although Jamal Mayers will return, it's possible that the Blackhawks plan to slot him on the wing instead of center next season.

McClement is an interesting option considering he can provide a ton of energy, score goals, really help out the penalty-kill, and he could come at a good price. Gaustad is more of a physically imposing player but his price will be much higher after creating a buzz after helping Nashville reach the 2nd round last season.

Now, along with interest in the center market, the Blackhawks will also dip their feet in another area: goaltending. Of course with Corey Crawford and Ray Emery under contract there isn't a high level of interest but with Martin Brodeur hitting the open market it has been rumored that the Blackhawks will be the hottest on Marty's trail with a one or two year deal if he decides to leave the Devils.

Other than the free agency front, Niklas Hjalmarsson's name continues to be a hot topic in the rumor mill with the Edmonton Oilers on his trail.
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