Members of the Hockey Independent crew have come together again for another series of offseason articles for your reading pleasure. The contributing authors to today’s piece will be Cris Cohen (New York Rangers), Seth Levin (New Jersey Devils), Alex Muscat (Detroit Red Wings) and myself, Benjamin Woodward (Boston Bruins). Each of us have taken on the role of armchair general manager for the sake of this feature. Over the next couple of weeks, leading into the July 1 opening of free agency, we will take a look at some of the players that are either set to hit the open market or have been rumored to be available via trade. Each member of the HI roundtable will propose a deal for the player that he/she believes to be reasonable for both squads.
Today’s discussion is centered around Washington Capitals’ winger Alexander Semin.
Alexander Semin (LW) — Washington Capitals — Age: 28 — Career: 197 Goals, 211 Assists, +65
Seth Levin (@levinakl) – New York Rangers — 3 Years, $16 Million ($5.333 AAV)
– Alexander Semin is an interesting and unique case (just like his skill set) when you take a look at his pending unrestricted free agency. It is pretty clear his current team, the Washington Capitals have no interest in retaining his services so he will be on a new roster next season. As a Russian native the natural inclination is to wonder if the KHL is a potential option for Semin. While it could be an option, for purposes of this analysis, I am going to assume he would prefer to stay in the National Hockey League.
That being said, if I was Semin’s agent, I might suggest the idea to my client to look at a 1-year offer with a team Semin would be a pretty good bet to generate solid offensive numbers with in 2012-13, even if it meant taking a little less money for the one season, with hopes of cashing in either with an extension or in free agency next season. My primary thoughts would be either the Detroit Red Wings or the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think his offensive skills would be a great compliment to a superstar player like Pavel Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin.
Now this is supposed to be a prediction, not a suggestion, so even that might be the best situation for Semin, it doesn’t mean Ken Holland or Ray Shero, or even Alexander Semin himself would agree. For a straight prediction, I pick Semin to be signed by GM Glen Sather and the New York Rangers to a 3-year, $16 million contract, where he could add some scoring punch to a team that greatly needs it, especially with the added doubt of when Marian Gaborik will return from shoulder surgery. It could end up very interesting if the New Jersey Devils are able to re-sign Zach Parise and the trade price for Rick Nash does not come down, that all three of the aforementioned teams could create a bidding war for the services of Semin, but let’s not go down that road just yet.
Benjamin Woodward (@BWoodward_HI) – Carolina Hurricanes — 4 Years, 25 Million ($6.250 AAV)
– There is no denying the immense talent found on the stick of Washington Capitals’ enigmatic winger Alexander Semin. He’s got a tremendous offensive skill set and one of the league’s most deadly shots. If you need any evidence of this, check out Semin’s game-winning wrist shot goal from Game four of the Boston — Washington Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
However, over the past year and a half it’s become clear that the Russian sniper isn’t exactly a fit in Washington. Even without former bench boss Dale Hunter, it seems as though the Capitals have firmly adopted a more defensive style of play. And rightfully so, being that it brought the team more success in the postseason (as an underdog) this year than the run-and-gun style did in any of their previous three campaigns. As anyone who watches the Capitals on a regular basis will certainly tell you, defense isn’t exactly Alex Semin’s forte.
With Carolina, Semin will have the opportunity to play in a system built for him to succeed. He’d get the chance to skate with the recently reunited Staal brothers on what would be arguably the best first line in the entire Eastern Conference. The ‘Canes seem to be entering into “win now” mode after missing the postseason the last three seasons, and general manager Jim Rutherford has been on record as being seriously interested in adding a “scoring winger to play on Eric Staal‘s line”. The addition of Alex Semin perfectly satisfies that criteria and would allow the Hurricanes to create a formidable top-six forward group that could look something like this:
Alexander Semin — Jordan Staal — Eric Staal
Jussi Jokinen — Jeff Skinner — Tuomu Ruutu
Alex Muscat (@AlexMuscat73) – Colorado Avalanche — 7 years, $50 Million ($7.143 AAV)
– Alex Semin finished second in team scoring during the 2011-12 regular season with 21 goals and 33 assists for 54 points. Like most of the Capitals’ players last season, Semin had some adapting to do when Bruce Boudreau was canned and replaced by Dale Hunter in late November. Since then, Hunter resigned his position after the Capitals were ousted by the New York Rangers in the playoffs. A defense-first style wasn’t Semin’s type of game, but he had no choice to accept his role.
Semin was upset with his role with the Capitals and has played his last game in the Washington. My guess is that he’s going to the Mile High City and skate for the Colorado Avalanche. The team finished 25th in goals scored and they have plenty of cap room and there where Semin fits in. Imagine Semin playing on a line with Paul Stastny or perhaps Matt Duchene, whose ready for a breakout season. When he uses it, Semin has one of the deadliest shots in the league and he can regain his 40-goal form from 2009-10. Plus he’d be reunited with former Capital netminder Semyon Varlamov.
Cris Cohen (@cc_927) – Kontinental Hockey League (SKA St. Petersburg?) — 5 Years, 42.5 Million ($8.5 AAV)
– Unless a general manager is desperate to get to the cap floor I’m not sure how any NHL general manager in his right mind would give Alex Semin anywhere near the $6.7 million he made last season. Then again, if offseasons past are any indication, that’s when so many lose all logic and reason and overpay.
Semin is one of those players who oozes talent. When he gives his all on the ice he can be downright lethal, and that undoubtedly will make GMs seriously consider the risk/reward factor of signing him. A 2 or 3-year, $4.5 million per year deal would be about as much as I would offer. Problem is, he doesn’t always give his all and I’d be hesitant to commit long-term (and commit a lot of money) to a player whose own commitment has been questioned in the past by former teammates.
When CBA negotiations get under way, both the owners and the NHLPA will likely look to close loopholes that have allowed teams to clear mistakes scot-free from their cap. If it were to happen and Semin doesn’t deliver on say a 5- or 6-year deal at $6.7 million or so per, it wouldn’t bode well for a team pushing the ceiling limit and looking for an out. Save a buyout, enticing a team desperate to reach the cap floor to take him or simply getting Bob Gainey to take the albatross off their hands, a team would be stuck. As a Rangers fan, I certainly would not want to think where the team would be right now were they not able to ship the final 5 years of his$6.5 million cap hit to the AHL and I certainly don’t want to make that mistake again.
Reportedly KHL teams will now be able to sign one returning Russian NHLer who would be exempted from the salary cap, so long as said player is deemed worthy of the distinction. Any KHL team with the financial ability can back up the Brinks truck and let the rubles flow freely as they please. If a pay raise is to be in Semin’s future and he’s looking to be more than a role player, it’ll be back in his native country.
About the Author: Boston Bruins writer for Hockey Independent. Contributor to the New England Hockey Journal. Have written for The Hockey Guys and SB Nation Boston. Follow me on Twitter @_BWoodward or shoot me an email at BWoodward.HI@gmail.com.