2012 NHL Free Agents: Analyzing Each Team Pursuing Alexander Semin

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst IJuly 6, 2012

2012 NHL Free Agents: Analyzing Each Team Pursuing Alexander Semin

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    Zach Parise is gone. Jiri Hudler is gone. PA Parenteau is gone. Ray Whitney is gone. Jaromir Jagr is gone.

    The 2012 free agent market of top-tier forwards has been whittled down to it's final remaining piece: Alexander Semin.

    So does Alex Semin's agent answer the phone with, "Hello, Plan B speaking?"

    — Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) July 5, 2012

    However, despite the mockery, Semin is a pure playmaker of All-Star caliber.

    Over his career, he's averaged more points per game (0.870) than Parise (0.817). He's hit the 20-goal plateau for six consecutive seasons. Since 2008, he's compiled a whopping plus-92 rating. He's averaged an impressive 14.1 shooting percentage over his entire career.

    ...And he's fully committed to the NHL:

    CSKA (KHL team) has an offer on the table for Semin, but so do several NHL clubs. Told by very reliable source, Semin wants to be in NHL.

    — David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) July 5, 2012

    Character issues and motivational concerns aside, Semin's stock is poised to skyrocket as the spotlight for top-six scorers now shines on him alone.

    A plethora of teams around the league should have quite a bit of interest, but a certain three have entered the negotiations as clear frontrunners.

    We'll break down the details regarding each top contender on the coming slides.

Carolina Hurricanes

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    The Carolina Hurricanes have lost out on Zach Parise, Rick Nash, PA Parenteau and Ray Whitney.

    It's time they actually landed an A-grade player to play alongside Eric and recently-acquired Jordan Staal on the team's improving top line.

    Could that item be Alexander Semin?

    GM Jim Rutherford is willing to consider the possibility, as he told the News & Observer's Chip Alexander on Thursday:

    “We would look at Semin on a short-term basis. 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.”

    The team could also be interested in Semin after a long history of domination at the hands of the elusive Russian.

    If anyone knows Semin's skill level, it's Carolina - dude has more goals and points against them than against anyone else.

    — JapersRink (@JapersRink) July 6, 2012

    Semin's first hat trick came against Carolina in 2006, and he's burned the 'Canes on many occasions since then—the Capitals have posted a combined 11-3-4 record against the Hurricanes over the last three years.

    And regardless of Semin's real interest in signing in Raleigh, Carolina certainly has the need and the money—the club needs to spend another $4.7 million just to reach the cap floor—to land Semin.

New Jersey Devils

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    With former captain Zach Parise now in Minnesota, the defending Eastern Conference champion New Jersey Devils are in desperate need of a first-line replacement.

    Alexander Semin could be that solution.

    Per John Fischer of SB Nation:

    Like Parise, Semin has been a very productive player in the past. Like Parise, Semin is a left shooting left winger. Like Parise, Semin will be 28 at the start of the 2012-13 season. With Parise off the market, Semin is the de facto top forward left among unrestricted free agents.

    Should the Devils consider giving Semin an offer?

    Semin's production certainly could rival Parise's, especially if a change of scenery can bring him back to top form.

    The 6'2", 209-pound winger put up 54 points each of the last two seasons—certainly decent totals for a top-six forward—but hasn't yet replicated his jaw-dropping 79- and 84-point campaigns of 2008-09 and 2009-10, respectively.

    He carries significantly more risk than Parise and can't offer the same type of leadership or defensive skills, but, scoring-wise, Semin is a completely adequate replacement.

Pittsburgh Penguins

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    The most notable losers of the Zach Parise sweepstakes are in danger of falling victim to an extremely destructive offseason.

    The Pittsburgh Penguins have already felt the departures of Jordan Staal, Steve Sullivan and Arron Asham this summer and have failed to land any notable and reportedly-available stars—neither Parise, Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan nor PA Parenteau—to complete their deadly top six.

    Now, the Penguins and GM Ray Shero have turned to the one suitable option they have left; Alexander Semin and his mixed smoothie of slick skill, snipe-like scoring and uncertain character.

    Despite a history of disputes with the Pens, Semin is apparently equally intrigued. Per Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Josh Yohe:

    Alex Semin's agent, Mark Gandler: "No question, playing in Pittsburgh would be great. Alex would love to play with either Malkin or Crosby."

    — Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) July 6, 2012

    However, Yohe also reports that the two sides still have a major hurdle to jump:

    It's no secret that Semin is interested in playing in Pittsburgh. But he wants a long term deal. Don't know if Pens are willing to go there.

    — Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) July 5, 2012

    Kevin McCauley of SB Nation explains Shero's hesitation:

    "Semin would be a great one or two-year high salary gamble, perhaps with a large option at the end of the contract, but his inconsistent play and reputation as a guy with a poor attitude will make teams reluctant to sign him to a long-term deal."

    Nonetheless, a trio of Semin and world-class superstars Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, all simultaneously healthy for the first time in years, would make for a hockey-playing Cerberus of unparalleled ferocity.

    Now, it's only a matter of Shero making that deadly combination come to life.