Originally written on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/14/12

NEWARK, NJ - DECEMBER 16: Zach Parise #9 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Montreal Canadiens at the Prudential Center on December 16, 2009 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Canadiens 2-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Let's not mix words: If Ryan Suter and Zach Parise hit free agency, they will be the belle of the ball. Both players are in their prime, hard-working and generally represent everything a general manager craves when assembling a roster. The real question is: How much will those executives be willing to pony up?

Parise is currently on a lucrative one-year contract worth $6 million. The 27-year-old opted for a shorter deal this past offseason, one that would allow him to test the waters in free agency. That money fits into the salary cap of his current employers, the New Jersey Devils, so you have to figure they offer him at least a raise on that figure. Should the Devils offer him a deal that averages at $6.5 million, 27 of the 30 NHL clubs could match that offer. In other words, Parise should be cashing in soon.

Currently, Parise sits in the top 20 in goal-scoring among forwards. Nevertheless, 30 other forwards make at least $6 million annually. Therefore, if you want to land Parise, you need to pay him as the top scorer he is. Were talking about a player who scored 45 goals four years ago and is on pace to score 30 goals in four of his last five seasons. A proven commodity with miles to go on his legs, who can do more than just score goals, we should be looking at a contract in excess of $7 million.

However, there could be a caveat to Parise's imminent signing. The Minneapolis, Minn., native could opt to greatly help out his suiting team and sign a sweetheart deal. The contract, which might equal his desired contract value could extend numerous years to the point that he makes $1 million or less in the final seasons, driving down the cap hit. Such a move would assist his team in adding more talent while keeping the bottom line affordable. Should Parise choose something like this scenario, it will likely be for his hometown Minnesota Wild or the Devils. Regardless, the contract should topple Brad Richards' nine-year, $60 million pact of a year ago.

By that same token, Ryan Suter should command a hefty raise should he hit the open market. The Madison, Wisc., native is currently finishing up a four-year contract in which he earned a modest $3.5 million. In this current scenario, he should approach at least double his current paycheck. Last season, grizzled veteran Roman Hamrlik earned $3.5 million per year, which should be paint a vivid picture of Suter's raise.
A decent comparable would be Paul Martin, who inked a five-year deal worth $25 million. Martin, then 30, was coming off a season where he only posted two goals and 11 points. And while Martin was never known to be a dominant offensive defenseman -- his point totals topped out at 33 back in 2008-2009 -- he was signed as a reliable two-way defender. Comparing him to Suter, who has four consecutive seasons of at least 37 points, it looks like Martin sets the market for Suter to cash in on.
Suter is the complete package. He plays a hard-nosed, physical game in his own zone and can make a great first pass getting out of his own end. The 27-year-old plays in all situations and is a great supplement to Shea Weber's blast on the blue line. Defensemen of his caliber rarely hit the open market which makes guys like Paul Martin, James Wisniewski, and Dan Hamhuis completely overpaid. Suter's closest comparable is Zdeno Chara, the last marquee defender to hit free agency in his prime.
Chara hit the jackpot by getting a five-year contract with an average value of $7.5 million. Considering the ancient Sergei Gonchar currently makes $5.5 million a season, is $2 million more for a cornerstone defender really that much more? Weber currently makes that amount and is worth every penny. In fact, the argument should be made that Suter deserves $7.5 million and Weber should get even more. Both defensemen are simply that good.
Suter and Parise are the cream of the crop as far as free agents go. Both could re-sign with the Predators and Devils, respectively. Or they could test the market and get paid a king's ransom. Both will certainly get a raise over their current contracts; the new deals could max out around $7 or $7.5 million (or more).

All in all, good raises for both Suter and Parise as they find teams willing to pony up for a franchise player -- whether that's with the Predators, Devils or elsewhere.

Photos credit: Getty Images
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