The once-teeming field of top-tier NHL free agents has been whittled down to a mere two.
And Shane Doan.
They have the money. They have the Cup-contending roster. They have the successful track record. They have the negotiation experience.
On the other end of the spectrum falls the Carolina Hurricanes.
They have a limited bank account. They play Jiri Tlusty on their first line. They haven't made the playoffs since 2009. Their biggest free-agent signing in the past decade is Tomas Kaberle—and he lasted only 29 games.
Yet Raleigh could soon become the latest destination for at least one of the two sought-after items.
Semin offers the finesse-style skating and high-speed offensive skill that the 'Canes were looking for when targeting Zach Parise, and has, over his career, actually averaged more points per game (0.870) than the now-Wild forward has (0.817).
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 Semin, 28, hasn't yet replicated his jaw-dropping 79- and 84-point campaigns of 2008-09 and 2009-10, respectively.
Semin has also shown his skills against the 'Canes themselves quite often. Elaborates Japer's Rink via Twitter:
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
It's a certainly feasible claim—after all, Semin's first hat trick came against Carolina in 2006. Further, he's helped the Capitals post a combined 11-3-4 record against the Hurricanes over the last three years, as well.
However, Semin has simultaneously become infamous for his questionable character and consistency, including a variety of Caps' locker room incidents and public insults. In fact, his behavior has become wild enough to draw a shockingly brutal bashing from TSN experts Marc Crawford and Pierre McGuire back on July 1.
The Hurricanes are also worried about his antics. As he told the News & Observer's Chip Alexander Thursday, 'Canes GM Jim Rutherford is skeptical about Semin:
“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.”
On the other hand, Doan puts forth a completely different resume for the same top-six winger position.
At 35, Doan has been with the Phoenix Coyotes' franchise since their 1995-96 season in Winnipeg, posting a 16-year track record of extreme reliability.
The solid 6'2", 228 lb. winger has missed only 38 games over the last 13 straight seasons, and has scored at least 18 goals and 49 points every season since 1999; over the past dozen years, he's averaged 25 goals and 60 points per season.
Last season, despite a slight decline, Doan still tallied respectable totals of 22 goals and 50 points.
Despite a playing style far less flashy than Semin's, Doan—the Coyotes' current team captain—brings unparalleled consistency, leadership and 1,253 games of NHL experience to the table.
He'd be a fantastic addition to the 'Canes, no questions asked.
Needless to say, if the Hurricanes have any chance to sign Shane Doan, DO IT. Even at 35, he's perfect for what Kirk Muller is trying to do.— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) July 9, 2012
Moreover, per Alexander, Rutherford has already submitted an offer to the irresistible veteran:
Doan's agent, Terry Boss, confirmed Monday the Hurricanes were one of the teams interested in Doan.Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Paola Bozvin of the Arizona Republic reports that Boss has received offers for Doan from 11 teams so far.
Regardless of the two stars' respective pros and cons, conversely, the Hurricanes absolutely must sign at least one if they wish to move off the playoff bubble and into true contention.
As it currently stands, the Hurricanes offense—which ranked 16th in goals scored last season—is not an outstandingly star-laden group. Per the latest theories, a rough estimate of the club's opening day lineup, as it would stand now:
Jordan Staal Eric Staal Jiri Tlusty
Jussi Jokinen Jeff Skinner Tuomo Ruutu
Patrick Dwyer J. Welsh (RFA) Andreas Nodl
D. Bowman (RFA) Tim Brent Anthony Stewart
There are a plethora of question marks in that chart, however—longtime 'Cane Chad LaRose (not listed above), somewhat-unwanted Anthony Stewart and the team's five restricted free agents (Welsh, Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Jerome Samson and Chris Terry) all have futures currently up in air.
Which one should the 'Canes sign?
But, while the addition of a Semin or Doan would only further jumble head coach Kirk Muller's projected lines, it would provide a tremendous boost to a top-six forwards group with a history of mediocrity.
A trio composed of one of the two A-grade free agents and both Jordan and Eric Staal would make for one of the league's most intimidating, if still untested, first lines.
They'd be backed up by a secondary scoring line of Skinner, Jokinen and Ruutu—the so-called "Skins and Finns" threesome that was first united back in 2010. If Jokinen can forget his disappointing 2011-12 campaign and return to his former glory days, the well-rounded trio could challenge for ice time equal to even the Staal brothers.
None of that will become a reality, however, unless Rutherford can bring either Semin or Doan to Raleigh—soon.
The 'Canes swung and missed on Zach Parise and Rick Nash. Now, they're down to the final pitch—it's either Alexander Semin or Shane Doan.
There are no more backup plans. There are no more compromises. There are no more we'll-try-again-tomorrow excuses.
Simply put, the Hurricanes can't let this opportunity go by.
It's either Semin or Doan.
Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. In that time, he has written more than 405 articles and received over 620,000 reads.