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Alexander Semin Signs with Hurricanes: Are the 'Canes Cup Contenders?

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05:  Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals brings the puck in on net during the third period against the Florida Panthers at the Verizon Center on April 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. Semin scored on the play.  The Capitals won the game 4-2. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images
Mark JonesSenior Analyst IJuly 26, 2012

Jim Rutherford and the Carolina Hurricanes have finally made their move.

They lost out on Zach Parise. They lost out on Ray Whitney. They lost out on Rick Nash. 

Now, at last, they've cashed in on Alexander Semin.

And Semin has cashed in, too.

Per TSN's Darren Dreger via Twitter, the contract is short and stunning:

 

1 year...$7 mil for Semin in Carolina.

— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 26, 2012

 

Semin's enormous cap hit transforms Carolina from a budget team standing $4.5 million beneath the salary floor to a top-loaded squad sporting a payroll higher than the Predators, Rangers and Red Wings among others.

The Hurricanes also jump to second in the league with precisely $20 million loaded into their three highest-paid forwards. Only the aforementioned Rangers have more.

Semin is set to bring a flashy, finesse-style game to a Carolina first line already stocked with well-rounded brothers Eric and Jordan Staal. 

Since 2006-07, Semin, 28, has scored a whopping 386 points in just 417 appearances for the Capitals, hitting the 30-goal plateau three times over that span. His 21-goal, 54-point performance last season were (amazingly) some of his lowest totals in six years.

Moreover, Semin has proved immensely potent against the 'Canes themselves over the years, scoring more often against Carolina than any other team. His 27 goals (including his first career hat trick) and 45 points in 41 contests against Staal & Co. equate to a point-per-game pace well over 1.0.

Further, with Semin and Jordan Staal's arrivals adding two threatening weapons to the club's first line, the 'Canes are now also set to boast one of the best second lines in the NHL. Hard-hitting Tuomo Ruutu, sneaky shootout specialist Jussi Jokinen, 2012 breakout Jiri Tlusty and 2011 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner set up a plethora of possible combinations for head coach Kirk Muller to experiment with.

So does a group of top-six forwards of arguably best-in-the-league proportions instantly make the 'Canes 2013 Stanley Cup contenders?

In short, no.

Yes, the Hurricanes are potentially the Eastern Conference's most-improved team of the summer.

Yes, upon Muller's adaptation to the team's strategies and tendencies, Carolina registered 47 points over their final 37 games in 2011-12.

And yes, they now sport a former Conn Smythe-winning goaltender and a top-five offensive corps.

But there's still a long road from Raleigh to the top of the NHL mountain.

In 2011-12, the Hurricanes' power play ranked 20th.

Their penalty kill ranked 22nd.

Their goals-against average ranked 26th.

Their averaged shots allowed per game ranked 30th. For the second consecutive year.

In overtimes and shootouts, they posted a dismal 4-16 record.

And, most notably, they missed the playoffs by a sizable 10 points.

Semin and Staal will, without a doubt, improve the Hurricanes. 

They'll give them an offense of potentially potency; one that could very well lift the team into the postseason comfortably by April.

But, until proven otherwise, the Stanley Cup is still nothing more than a distant pipe dream in Carolina.

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