Carolina Hurricanes Wisely Take The Alexander Semin Plunge

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals skates with the puck in front of Tim Gleason #6 of the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period at the Verizon Center on March 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Seven million dollars for Alex Semin? Indeed. Combined with the addition of Jordan Staal, the Hurricanes are likely to see this as money well spent.

It might sound crazy to dish out a $7 million salary to Alexander Semin, he of the mixed reputation and just 21 goals in 77 games last season.

But whatever TSN panelists say about Semin's intangibles, his playing history and underlying numbers indicate a big salary like that for just one year at age 28 is a no-brainer. That's how the Carolina Hurricanes landed the star winger, and that's how they are likely to be very glad they took the plunge.

Two things to know about why Semin was allowed to walk from the Washington Capitals, and why he lasted on the unrestricted free agent market so long this summer:

First, the Capitals already had two forward stars (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom) locked up long term for a combined $16.2 million in cap hit. They added another $6 million when they extended defenseman Mike Green this summer. Because of those commitments, Semin was always the odd man out unless he somehow proved himself even more essential than those stars. It's why he was retained on consecutive one-year deals of $6 million and $6.7 million.

Second, teams reserve the kind of lifetime deals that Ovechkin and Backstrom have -- and the kinds that top free agents Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber signed this summer -- for players they are 100 percent certain are franchise cornerstones. Semin, though he's been playing at a $6 million-plus salary the last two seasons, is not seen as such a cornerstone.

Not that this makes him a bad pickup at all, even at the cornerstone price of $7 million.

Truth be told, the best players in their prime probably deserve an even bigger salary, but most of them accept less so that teams can afford to fit an actual supporting cast under the cap. And most of them accept that lesser amount in return for a long-term commitment that essentially overpays them (cap-wise) in their later, unproductive years.

People like to bash Semin's work ethic, demeanor, backchecking -- Pierre McGuire even hilariously called him a "coach killer" despite no list of slaughtered coaches -- and the reputation is repeated so wide that there's probably some substance behind the echo chamber.

But recent analysis shows Semin's been a productive playoff performer, one of his team's best performers at even strength, and someone whose demeanor is at worst misunderstood. It's fair to say Semin is a more productive, more effective player than popular media give him credit.

Yet aside from the reputation versus performance, there are other reasons to be at least wary of what Semin will bring to Raleigh -- reasons that it's prudent not to lock him up until he's 40. Beyond scoring just 21 goals last year -- something that could be attributed to decreased ice time and an uncharacteristically low 11.5 shooting percentage -- he's also 27, his career-high 40 goals came two seasons ago, and in several seasons Semin has been hindered by injuries.

Essentially, you sign Semin for his lethal wrist shot -- which has been particularly lethal against the Hurricanes -- and still-improving hockey sense, and hope the body holds up so that he produces his more customary 30 goals. The Hurricanes were one of the few teams that could both afford, and were willing, to add Semin for $7 million on a short term "let's get to know each other first" deal.

Combined with the addition of fellow top-six forward Jordan Staal this summer, by the end of this season the Hurricanes are very likely to see this Semin trial as money well spent.

At that point, the question for Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford will be the same question that faced Capitals GM Mike McPhee for years: Can we afford to make Semin part of our core for life?

For more on the Hurricanes, check in with Canes Country.

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