July 24, 2014

Washington Capitals: Alexander Semin signs one-year deal with Carolina

Alex Semin during warmups at Verizon Center, May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Carolina Hurricanes announced Thursday afternoon they signed winger Alexander Semin to a one-year deal worth $7 million. Semin, 28, scored 21 goals with 33 assists in 77 games for the Washington Capitals last season.

Semin’s departure breaks up the “Young Guns” of the Caps, with Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green all still in the fold. The inconsistent winger was a polarizing figure the last several seasons in D.C., with both staunch supporters and detractors alike. Often called an enigma, Semin was accused of not caring about winning and not willing to do “the little things” to help his team win.

Others saw Semin as a tremendously talented offensive threat with few peers in the league that could match his skill level. At times, he did look like one of the most skilled players in the league. But his production has slipped each of the last three seasons from his career high of 40 goals in the ’09-’10 season under coach Bruce Boudreau. Semin scored 28 goals in ’10-’11 down to his full-season low of 21 last year.

Can Semin reverse the downward trend? Canes GM Jim Rutherford certainly thinks so.

“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 Rutherford. “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.”

Teamed with the Staal brothers, Jeff Skinner and a couple of other quality offensive contributors, Semin might regain the touch he had in three 70-plus point seasons for the Caps. Also, getting out of the media spotlight in D.C. might help the extremely shy Russian winger. It might be the rare case where a “fresh start” really does do the player good.

Caps GM George McPhee has taken a risk allowing a very skilled player to walk without a return, especially to a division rival. The first chance Caps fans get to see if it was the correct call will be Dec. 1 (work stoppage caveat) when the Hurricanes visit Verizon Center is what surely will be an emotional game for everyone.

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Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Redskins coverage on Twitter @CapitalsDSP.

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