Carolina Hurricanes: Mid-Season Grades for Alexander Semin and Jordan Staal
Hoping to re-establish the team in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford traded fan favorite Brandon Sutter, prospect Brian Dumoulin and a first-round pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Jordan Staal.
Then, slightly less than a month later, he signed 2012's most enigmatic free agent, Semin, to a shocking one-year contract.
He hoped the two momentous acquisitions would help the 'Canes return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Halfway through the lockout-shortened 2013 season, those investments have paid off exactly in the way Rutherford hoped.
Semin and Staal have been solid producers on the box score but even more impressive on the ice, where Semin has quickly shed his lazy reputation and Staal has swiftly developed chemistry with all of his teammates.
But have they been equal to their price tags? Have they been worth a young, terrific third-line center, two promising future defensemen and $7 million in cash?
Looking back on the events of last summer, grades for the Staal and Semin acquisitions—based on the first half of the season—fall on the two coming slides.
Jordan Staal Acquisition
When the Pittsburgh-Carolina trade was announced during the first round of last year's draft, we were initially skeptical—to say the least.
Since then, however, Jordan has proved himself an extremely valuable and reliable asset for the 'Canes' sixth-ranked offense.
With Tuomo Ruutu still recovering from surgery, Jussi Jokinen suffering through a rough first half and Jeff Skinner, Chad LaRose and Tim Brent all missing significant time due to injury, the Hurricanes have desperately needed Jordan to provide production beyond the first line.
He ranks fifth on the 'Canes with 18 points—six goals and 12 assists—in 25 appearances. That points-per-game pace would've ranked second on the team last season, though, behind only brother Eric.
Nonetheless, the primary purpose for Jordan's addition was his defensive responsibility. Just over halfway into the 2013 campaign, the statistics on that are a mixed bag.
No. 11 leads the team with 49 hits and is tied for first among forwards with 16 blocked shots. He's also a minus-three, though, checks in just a hair above .500 in faceoff percentage and ranks in the middle of the pack in Corsi rating (2.47).
Those numbers aren't drastically different than Brandon Sutter's with Pittsburgh. In 27 games, the 'Canes' former third-line center, who scored the Penguins' game-tying and game-winning goals Tuesday, has tallied eight goals, 13 points, 23 blocked shots, a plus-six rating and a 50.1 faceoff percentage.
Brian Domoulin and Derrick Pouliot remain promising defensive prospects for the Penguins, as well.
Staal has transitioned to his larger role and new teammates in Raleigh quickly and impressively, but the jury is still out on the winner of last June's trade.
Alexander Semin Signing
Semin's incredible behind-the-back pass to Jiri Tlusty on Feb. 20 remains one of the best plays of the season so far.
Alexander Semin came to Carolina with a reputation of inconsistency, laziness and apathy.
Less than two months into the 2013 NHL season, he's turned that impression 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
The 29-year-old Russian is tied for sixth in the NHL with 20 assists and third in the NHL with a plus-19 rating; over the Hurricanes' last seven games alone, he's recorded 13 points, 20 shots and a plus-10 rating.
He, along with 'Canes team captain Eric Staal, have been on the ice for 32 Carolina and a mere 11 opponent goals, and the trio of Semin, Staal and Jiri Tlusty have played almost three times as much as any other 'Canes line combination.
Eventually, the goals will come, too. Semin's career shooting percentage is 13.8 percent, but he's scored on only 8.6 percent of his shots this season—a statistic that invariably returns to the mean over the long run.
Given that three of his seven 2013 tallies have come in the past five games, that streak might actually have already begun.
With over $12.2 million still separating the 'Canes' payroll from the current NHL salary cap, the costs of Semin's $7 million cap hit are miniscule compared to the remarkable dynamics Semin has brought to the 'Canes' offense.
The only worry left in the Hurricanes' Semin investment is one that, three months ago, no one would've expected—whether Rutherford can find a way to lock up No. 28 to a long-term, mega-million contract before all of July's free-agency hell breaks loose.