April 27, 2012; Glendale, AZ, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter (20) skates with the puck while being pursued by Phoenix Coyotes left wing Lauri Korpikoski (28) during the second period in game one of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals at Jobing.com Arena. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

Americans Are Taking Over Free Agency

On the 4th of July, the U.S.’s birthday, it’s only fitting that the future of the NHL could depend on the decisions of a handful of Americans.  One could argue that the three best free agents remaining on the market are from the states –  Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, and Matt Carle.  All three are slated for big money, and at least one or two of them could reveal a decision today.

One thing that has been revealed today is that defenseman Ryan Suter will announce his decision today.  His agent has said via Twitter that he “plans on making a decision today”.  Normally the anticipation for that news would be exciting enough, but other remarks last night by his countryman have raised the excitement levels even further.

Zach Parise, a friend and colleague of Suter, had this to say to reporters yesterday about the possibility of the two best free agents in free agency teaming up:

I would love to play on a team with a defenseman like Ryan Suter.  We’ve talked.  Ryan and I are friends.  We’ve definitely talked throughout this thing.

There certainly is something to be seen in these remarks.  Parise and Suter could find a home that could land both their contract relatively easily, such as Minnesota or Pittsburgh.  If they’re serious about a tandem, they could both take a small pay-cut and turn their team into a Cup contender.  But in the meantime, we’ll have to wait anxiously to see if such a thing ever comes down.

Meanwhile, don’t forget about Matt Carle.  His contract will be a fat one after he finds out the dollar amount of the Suter deal.

But the entire free agency period has been a reflection of the league as a whole recently.  The success of Americans has been widespread recently, and the country’s best players are asserting themselves in the spotlight like never before.  Consider that the last two Conn Smythe winners (Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas) are American.  The two captains in last year’s Cup finals (Dustin Brown, Zach Parise) were both American, the first time that has ever happened.  And when you add this free agency period, the Americans look to be the best again.

Other countries have been close, but their best players have struggled/lost to Americans

Canada’s Sidney Crosby was sidelined with a concussion for a huge period, and many are nervous if he can be the same Sid even after the injury.  Claude Giroux looked to be skyrocketing to the top of the discussion of best players before Zach Parise’s Devils blew right past Giroux’s Flyers.  Rick Nash has been considered an under-the-radar stellar player, but the cloud over Columbus overshadows Nash’s skill.

Russia’s Alex Ovechkin had another great year, but not without criticism towards his leadership ability and his diminished ice time.  His teammate, Alex Semin, still is unsigned after an enigmatic season – nothing seems to motivate the man.  Meanwhile, Pavel Datsyuk, who I would argue is the best Russian player, lost quickly to Nashville in the first round of the playoffs.  Evgeni Malkin, the Hart Trophy winner, suffered a similarly ugly first round loss to the Flyers.

Sweden’s players were strong again this year, with Henrik Lundquist putting forth a stellar season in net.  The Sedin twins were great again, but fell short to the Kings quickly as well.  The Swedes still look solid all over the league, but the results haven’t been there like they have with the Americans.

And that has been the difference: the Americans have gotten results recently (Parise and Suter will be getting results in their checking accounts pretty soon), and right now is the biggest hockey country on the planet.  I don’t expect them to stay there long, but on Independence Day, a day to reflect on America’s great accomplishments, I would be remiss not to mention the steps made in American hockey.

Thanks for reading, and have a great 4th!  Be sure to comment!

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