The mystery surrounding Alex Semin's future in the NHL finally came to end when he signed a one year, $7M contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. There was much speculation that Semin was going to sign with either Pittsburg or Detroit, but neither team wanted to offer Semin a muli-year contract, which is something he sought, or anything over $5M. The Hurricanes jumped on the chance, and with plenty of cap space, gave Semin much more than anyone was willing to pay. In 77 games last year, Semin scored 21 goals and 33 assists while make $6.7M on a one year contract.
Semin has been heavily critsized over his career for being a lazy, 'coach killing', player who disappears at times and is invisible in the playoffs save for his untimely penalties. The Caps saw a glimmer of hope in the 09-10 season when Semin broke out with 84 points, but the identity crisis the team has suffered saw those numbers drop to 54 points in the last two years. Fans were calling for his head during the playoffs when bad penalties and lack of desire and points over-shadowed his overall skill and under-rated ability to steal the puck. Although the Caps decided not to re-sign him, they were in contact with Semin and his agent throughout the summer. Many thought the Caps would re-sign Semin to a much lower deal if Semin did not receive any offers which he hadn't until Carolina knocked down the door.
At $7M, Semin is highly over-priced. The Hurricanes are taking a huge gamble with this signing and it can go one of two ways:
1. Semin breaks out again.
Semin has been under the shadow of Ovechkin since 2006. He's been on the second line for most of his career. He's never had a true centermen to give him the puck. He's had to do most of his offensive damage by himself. He's been primarily on the 2nd power play unit.
Going to Carolina might just be what Semin needs to become the player that everyone thinks/knows he can be. He has the talent to be the most dynamic player in the league and with players like the Staal brothers, Jeff Skinner and Jussi Jokinen, it may be the center stage that Semin has been waiting for. Semin can also be very slick defensively. He's lead the Caps in takeaways the last two years and that will bode well for the Hurricanes who have struggled mightily since they won the Cup in 2006.
2. Semin breaks out... then disappears again.
This scenario is the more likely of the two considering what every Caps fan has witnessed the last 6 years. I believe Semin will come out firing. He'll lead the league in points or goals or both in the first 3-4 months. Then he'll disappear again. The high of being on a new team and having a new identity and knowing that you're the go-to-guy to score all the big goals will wear off around December and Semin will go into hibernation until around March. The Hurricanes are decent team. They have players that actually give a crap and a captain that leads by example, but I don't think that is enough to keep Semin going. I think Semin is going to be bored. It's a more family-oriented city in Raleigh and considering Semin STILL hasn't even learned enough english to even get by in an interview, I think he'll sleep his way through most of the season and have hints of greatness.
My prediction: 35 goals, 30 asssists.
The Carolina Hurricanes are not going to make the playoffs unless they can solidfy a better defensive core. Justin Faulk, Tim Gleason, Jay Harrison, Joe Corvo and Joni Pitkanen are good puck movers, but there is no real shut down guy, yet. They are $13.5M or so under the cap and have money to burn. In signing Semin and making the big trade to land Jordan Staal from Pittsburg, the Hurricanes are definitely better than they were last year, but still have some work to do.
What I find interesting is what will happen next year. Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk need to be resigned and they will probably make a minimum of $10M collectively, and, once again, Semin will be playing for a contract. GM Jim Rutherford made a mistake last season in signing Tomas Kaberle and shipped him off only a few months later, so I guarantee he'll be keeping a close eye on Semin on the ice and in the locker room. Semin's going to have to play brilliantly, get it under control and prove that he wants to be in the NHL because this is his last chance.