NHL Free Agency 2012: 6 Reasons Alex Semin Has Played His Way off the Caps
Despite being one of the most electrifying offensive talents in the National Hockey League over the course of the last five seasons, Alexander Semin appears to be on his way off of the Washington Capitals after yet another rather disappointing postseason performance.
Two years ago, Semin faced harsh criticism for his zero-goal performance against the Montreal Canadiens during the Habs' first-round upset of the top-seeded Caps, and he wasn't much better in the 2011 semifinals when Washington was bounced in four games by Tampa Bay.
This year, Semin played exceptionally well in the opening round against Boston, as the talented Russian led Washington with three goals in seven games, but didn't manage to get on the scoresheet against the Rangers in the semis.
Now, as the 28-year-old enters unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career, the winger's agent, Mark Gandler, has made it clear that he has no plans of signing a new deal with Washington.
As team captain Alex Ovechkin's best friend, Semin's departure won't come without controversy, but it seems increasingly unlikely that he'll agree to an extension prior to July 1st.
6. Inconsistency in the Regular Season
After Alexander Semin put up 40 goals and 84 points during the 2009-10 campaign, the skilled yet streaky sniper hasn't been able to top 30 goals or 55 points in either of the two following seasons.
Considering he's been making over $6 million annually on a pair of one-year deals since 2010, Semin simply hasn't lived up to expectations offensively.
Long scoreless droughts, untimely penalties and frequent uninspired play led to Semin being scratched from the lineup on multiple occasions during the 2011-12 season, which is shocking considering how talented an offensive player he is.
Looking ahead, if the Caps are intent on finally moving beyond the semifinal round, they'll need consistency from the guys that are paid to be the team's best players, which is something they haven't received from Semin in recent years.
5. Diminished Ice Time
As Mark Gandler, his agent, stated after the Caps were eliminated in Game 7 against the Rangers, Semin's role with the Caps has diminished substantially over the last year.
Once considered to be an "every situation" type of player, Semin saw less time with the Caps' first power-play and penalty-kill units during the latter stages of the 2011-12 season and playoffs, which was obviously frustrating for such a high-end talent.
Though it's unclear how much Semin would play on a contending team, the former 40-goal scorer would more than likely have a much larger role on a rebuilding team, which appears to be of greater importance, at least according to Gandler.
4. Contract Demands
Assuming Semin isn't expecting to take a healthy pay cut in order to remain in Washington, there's no reason for George McPhee to sign the enigmatic scorer to a long-term deal.
Semin's last two contracts have been one-year agreements worth a combined $12.7 million, which is far too much for a player who tallied just 49 goals during that span.
Realistically, if Semin preferred to continue his career with the Caps, he'd have to be prepared to agree to a deal worth closer to $4-5 million a season, which is unlikely considering he could almost undoubtedly make a great deal more by playing in the Kontinental Hockey League.
As his agent said in 2009, he doesn't believe in "hometown discounts," and unless that changes by July 1st, Semin will be donning a different team's jersey for the start of the 2012-13 season.
3. Semin's Vanishing Act in the Postseason
Aside from his three-goal performance in this year's opening round against the Bruins, Semin has been a disappointment regularly during each of the Caps' last three postseason runs.
Yes, he tallied a Game 1 overtime winner against the Rangers in 2011, but Semin managed just five points in the following eight games and registered just two assists in seven games against Montreal in 2010.
This year, in the Caps' seven games against the Rangers during their semifinal series, Semin notched a measly one assist and was once again held scoreless when the team needed him most.
That kind of output doesn't warrant a long-term contract, especially from a team that desperately needs offensive production from its star-calibre talents.
2. Questions Regarding Semin's Character
After ex-Capital Matt Bradley left Washington for Florida in the summer of 2011, the gritty winger aired some concerns regarding Semin's commitment and effort level.
Less than two months later, another former Cap, David Steckel, didn't do much to refute Bradley's assertions that Semin "doesn't care." Both Steckel and Bradley were well respected within the Caps' dressing room, and the questions surrounding Semin's discipline and how much he cares about team success only intensified in the following months.
This year, Semin was deemed a healthy scratch by both Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter at various points in the season, which signaled a drastic change from years passed.
Due to his apparent lack of effort at critical times, Semin was deemed expendable by Washington's coaching staff on more than one occasion, and it seems that the team's management team will come to a similar conclusion this offseason.
1. The Caps' Needs
Looking ahead, if the Capitals hope to improve their roster by September, the team will need to address its most glaring needs, which entails George McPhee using the $6-7 million usually allocated for Semin to fill those holes.
First and foremost, the Caps need a legitimate number two center, but without an abundance of attractive options of the free-agent market, McPhee could chase a battle-tested winger like Shane Doan, Jiri Hudler or Ray Whitney, as each would likely be more useful pieces than Semin during the postseason.
Though replacing a consistent 20- to 30-goal scorer like Semin isn't easy, if the team can convince top prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov to leave Russia for D.C. after next season, the Caps won't miss Semin's offensive contributions nearly as much in the long run.
In the more immediate future, the Caps offense will almost assuredly be better in 2012-13 even without Semin if Nicklas Backstrom can stay healthy, and McPhee's focus has to be on signing Mike Green to an extension and finding a suitable replacement for pending unrestricted free agent Dennis Wideman.
Semin is obviously still a very serviceable top-six winger at the NHL level, but he won't be back in Washington unless he's willing to lower his asking price by at least $2 million annually.