With the team currently out of the playoffs, the NHL trade deadline could not come at a better time for the Washington Capitals. They need to improve if they want to make a postseason run, and the time to do that is now.
General Manager George McPhee is sure to have several big decisions to make at the deadline. One of the biggest will undoubtedly be what he wants to do with Alexander Semin.
The enigmatic Russian is currently in his seventh season with the Caps, having been drafted by McPhee with the 13th overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. He is the longest-tenured player with the team, having been here since the 2002/03 season and the early days of the rebuild, and has 192 goals and 202 assists for 394 points in 449 NHL games (0.878 points per game), all with the Caps.
Semin has for a long time been one of the Caps' top point producers, forging a great friendship with superstar Alex Ovechkin both on and off the ice. Sasha's best year came in the team's dominant 2009/10 season, when he tallied 40 goals and added 44 assists for 84 points in 73 games.
Caps fans have inexplicably been calling out for the team to trade Semin for a number of years now. His inconsistency and predictability on the ice as well as his proneness to take penalties leave fans believing he hurts the team more than he adds to it. While they might be right, the truth is that McPhee could not pick a worse time to trade the great 28, trade deadline or not.
Semin has been by far the Capitals' best player over the past two months. By far.
In his first 27 games this season, Semin scored just five goals and added six assists for 11 points, along with 36 penalty minutes and a plus/minus of minus-9.
In his last 30 games, Semin has 11 goals, 18 assists, 29 points, 14 penalty minutes and a plus/minus of plus-16.
The truth is, had Semin not been in the team, the Caps would be in a much worse position than they are right now, perhaps out of the playoff picture altogether. He has managed to almost single-handedly keep the club afloat, and trading him now would be an unwise and unjust move.
With top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov likely making the move to Washington this summer, the Capitals might have to reassess when July comes around. Semin carries a $6.7 million cap hit, but his contract runs out in the summer, and if the wants to continue his career in the NHL rather than escape to the KHL, he will likely have to take a pay cut.
At 27, Semin is producing as well as he ever has. If he continues to do so, why not re-sign him in the summer?
For now, anyway, if the Caps are serious about mounting a legitimate playoff run, they need to hold on to Alexander Semin.
Follow Jake Ware on Twitter at @JacobWare95