On Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes signed left-wing Alexander Semin to a one-year deal worth $7 million. Semin was one of the two most coveted free agents left on the market (Shane Doan: Phoenix Coyotes), and his signing is a statement by the Hurricanes front office that they are ready to win right now.
Semin is coming off of a 21-goal season for the Washington Capitals. His 54 points last season would have placed him second on the Hurricanes, behind the 70 points scored by stalwart Captain Eric Staal.
After moderate success in the 2012 NHL Playoffs, in which he tallied three goals and one assist in 14 games, Semin played for his native Russia in the 2012 IIHF World Championships. There, he had a solid tournament totalling two goals and three assists in three games, as he helped lead Russia to the gold medal.
Some are asking why the Hurricanes did not lock up a player as talented as Semin for the long term.
The short answer is that Semin comes with some "baggage". The 28-year-old Russian has been criticized in regards to his desire, motivation and attitude. Many of his teammates in Washington openly criticized Semin for his lack of desire.
The Hurricanes are taking a big risk on a player that can be a guy who upsets the dressing room. In the Hurricanes official release introducing Semin, Carolina President and GM Jim Rutherford addresses the issue by saying the franchise did their due diligence on bringing Semin into the fold and that he did not foresee any problems adding him to the roster.
It speaks volumes when the GM, in an official press release, feels the need to address these potential issues in the very beginning of the release, welcoming a new player to the team. To me, it says that the Canes are taking a big chance bringing him in and that they are hoping his prior issues are behind him.
Why it makes sense is simple for Carolina.
Semin is an ultra-talented offensive player, something that Carolina severely lacks. He has tremendous puck possession skills and he is a certified NHL sniper. He has scored 40 goals once in his career (2009-10) and 30 goals twice (2006-07, 2008-09). From the years 2006-10, Semin averaged 34.5 goals and 69.5 points per season. He also averaged almost 29 points a season on the power play during that stretch.
The Hurricanes are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Semin, in hoping that he can return to his previous form by playing alongside Eric Staal on the top line and the power play.
The one-year deal was signed in hopes of returning to the aforementioned productive levels that Semin has achieved. Unfortunately, statistical evidence points to the contrary.
Over the past two seasons, Semin's numbers have dipped. From 2010-12, he averaged 24.5 goals and 54 points a season for the Capitals. This is a decrease of 10 goals and 15.5 points a season from his top form during his extremely productive run with Washington. He also saw a huge dip in his power play numbers, down to 13.5 points per season on the power play.
For Carolina fans, this signing may be justified.
Carolina needed a proven goal scorer to go along with the Staal boys and 20-goal scorer Jeff Skinner. Semin will give them a boost on their power play as well. This is a huge gamble for a small market team to invest so much money in one player. Semin will be the second highest paid player on the team and will be expected to perform as such.
If it works out, Carolina fans will be ecstatic. If it does not, President and GM Jim Rutherford took a gamble for one year in the hopes of elevating his franchise to the Playoffs.
In my opinion, the risk taken on Semin and the addition of Jordan Staal by Rutherford are what a fan wants to see from their President and GM. A one-year deal for $7 million on Semin is well worth the gamble based on the franchise's recent history, which includes missing the playoffs for the last three seasons.