Right wing Alex Semin, the longest-tenured Capitals player, has signed a one-year, $7 million contract with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Semin, 28, was a 2002 first-round draft pick by Washington. In seven seasons he had 197 goals and 211 assists (408 points). But the relationship between the two sides ran its course. Semin’s agent, Mark Gandler, had long expressed his client’s frustration at his recent role in Washington.
He averaged 16 minutes, 47 seconds of ice time per game – the lowest total since his rookie year (12:37). Semin has shown an aptitude for playing on the penalty kill in years past, but under coaches Dale Hunter, and Bruce Boudreau, this past season he was used just 1:09 total when down a man. This is a player who saw decent short-handed ice time last season (61:23), in 2009-10 (71:40) and in 2008-09 (94:14). Semin was also rarely employed in late-game situations when a lead had to be held.
“We have done a lot of research about Alexander, and discussions about his fit with our team have included people at many different levels of our organization, including players, coaches and staff,” said Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford in a statement. “What’s been clear throughout this process was his commitment to wanting to play in the NHL, and compete against the world’s best players. Alexander’s elite skill level and ability to score from the wing fill an important need on the ice, and we hope that a fresh start in Carolina will serve both Alexander and our team well.”
Semin has long been sheltered in Washington, where he does no English-language interviews and rarely speaks to reporters. That often leaves his teammates answering for his own transgressions. Raleigh is an even smaller hockey market, of course, and should match his comfort level.
“I’m very happy to be a Carolina Hurricane,” Semin said in a statement. “It’s a great fit for me. I look forward to playing with great players, and putting together a winning season.”
Semin routinely wows teammates and opponents with his pure skill. He has one of the game’s best wrist shots, soft hands and elite stick skills that sometime leave him overconfident and lead to penalties. He scored 21 goals this season and had 33 assists. It was his second consecutive 54-point season. Three other times he’s topped 73 points. Semin has been known to sit with injuries some teammates feel he could play through – three times missing 19 games or more in a season. Yet he matched a career-high with 77 games played this season and still cut his penalty minutes from 71 to 56.
He played in 52 games in 2003-04 at age 19, stayed home during the 2004-05 lockout instead of reporting to AHL Portland and then missed another full season after he claimed compulsory military service kept him in Russia for another year. But since returning for the 2006-07 season, Semin has been a key cog in the Caps’ success.
“Of course. Of course. I want to see everybody back next year, but again I hope he’s going to stay here, I don’t want to leave him,” teammate Alex Ovechkin said after the season ended in May. “But again it’s [general manager George McPhee’s] decision, it’s Sasha decision, it’s Sasha’s agent decision…It’s pretty hard, but it’s a business. Everybody wants to be successful in this business and sometimes you have to make hard decision to be successful.”
Semin joins a revitalized Carolina team that last month traded for center Jordan Staal, brother of star forward Eric Staal. The Hurricanes were 33-33-16 last season and finished with 82 points, 12th in the Eastern Conference and 10 points behind the Caps, who nabbed the final Stanley Cup playoff berth. The Hurricanes have missed the postseason three straight years.
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