While it took 26 days from the opening of free agency to get a deal done, Alexander Semin finally found a new NHL home Thursday, signing a one-year, $7 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The signing brings the end of a decade in Washington for the Russian since Semin was drafted 13th overall in the 2002 NHL Draft, although it certainly has been a roller coaster ride for him in the nation's capital.
Semin joined the Caps in 2003-04, but he refused to report to the American Hockey League the next season during the NHL lockout, choosing to play back in Russia. Once the lockout ended, Semin cited military obligations and failed to come back to the National Hockey League, forcing the Capitals to go to court to get him to honor the remaining years of his signed NHL deal.
Eventually, when he did return, with Alexander Ovechkin on the roster, Semin settled back in Washington in 2006-07, and showed flashes of his ample talent, hitting the 40-goal mark back in 2009-10.
But after signing a pair of one-year deals with the Capitals, Semin's production dropped to 21 goals this past year, and it seemed Washington didn't have a lot of interest in signing Semin again for next season. The Capitals chose to let him hit the unrestricted free-agent market, and didn't seem to be making a serious effort to bring him back to the club next year.
For his part, Semin's agent, Mark Gandler, didn't help matters, chiding the Capitals for Semin's lack of ice time and role with the club on 106.7 The Fan back in May. Gandler said Semin didn't want another one-year deal, opting for the security of a longer-term deal for more overall money than he had received in his last two years.
Those two one-year deals - worth $6 million and $6,7 million respectively - were signed mid-season, but when the team didn't re-sign him during a campaign where he struggled, it seemed like a parting was on tap.
One on the free-agent market, Semin's reputation hurt his negotiating power with other clubs, and in the end, he had to settle for another short-term deal.
Carolina GM Jim Rutherford - who eventually signed him - told the Raleigh News & Observer of his concerns earlier this month.
"We would look at Semin on a short-term basis," Rutherford said. "We wouldn't want to get locked in to anything, because we've all heard the stories about him.
"We do like his skill level. It could be that we could bring him in for a year, get to know him and go from there in terms of considering something longer term," he added.
Other general managers - including Buffalo GM Darcy Regier - dismissed signing him completely, with Regier indicating he didn't even make an offer apparently due to the baggage Semin is reported to carry. Other potential suitors - including the Red Wings, Penguins and Islanders - seemed to cool on the player's demands and left him back to a one-year deal to try and restart his NHL career.
With a deal now signed, the one-year deal offers Semin a change of scenery and a short-term deal to make his case for next summer.
With declining numbers, and a reputation that isn't high around the league, a good rebound season - along with more of an effort to improve his image as a team player and someone who can help market a franchise would go a long way to getting that long-term deal that Gandler spoke of.
The Hurricanes are in the midst of a remake after missing the playoffs three straight years, acquiring Jordan Staal from the Pittsburgh Penguins at this year's draft and then making overtures to some of the big-ticket free agents this offseason to make a big splash.
With Semin on board, Carolina hopes that the skill level that Rutherford spoke of helps boost the Hurricanes' attack. Carolina did see a lot of Semin lighting the lamp in the last few years, as he had 27 goals in 41 games against the Hurricanes - most against any NHL club.
In a smaller market - and not having to be the team's primary star with Eric Staal and Cam Ward on the Hurricanes roster - Carolina isn't a bad fit for Semin, and with a short-term deal, if the experiment fails, the team won't be dragged down with a longer-term if it doesn't work out.
For Washington, who seemed content to let Semin walk, it's the end of a chapter of a player who had the skill level among the best in the NHL - but didn't always display it.
Brilliant at times, Semin also frustrated fans with his 56 penalty minutes - fourth-most on the Capitals - which seemingly came at inopportune times. But the big question for the Capitals now isn't letting Semin walk - it's how you replace the skill level in the lineup.
While Semin wasn't one to go into high-traffic areas, he still possessed a deadly shot and was able to dart around and create scoring chances. And that is something the Capitals will miss next season with his speed requiring defenders to be mindful of the winger. For all the problems Semin had in the postseason when defenses tightened up, Semin could be an excellent regular-season player, and now Washington's loss is the gain of a Southeast Division rival.
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