It's no secret that the Capitals have made a lot of roster moves this summer, signing forwards Troy Brouwer, Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern, Mattias Sjogren of the Swedish Elite League and an AHLer fresh off a season in the KHL Chris Bourque. Defenseman Roman Hamrlik was also signed along with goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
Former Caps Matt Bradley, Boyd Gordon and Scott Hannan were not resigned and the first two have signed contracts elsewhere.
Big re-signings included the hopeful prospect Matthieu Perreault, fan-favorite Brooks Laich, big defnseman Karl Alzner and AHL blue-liner Patrick McNeil.
The Capitals also traded RW Eric Fehr for bruiser prospect Danick Paquette and also exchanged one of their three young goaltenders, Semyon Varlamov, for a second-round pick and a first-round pick that may very well enter the top-pick lottery.
George McPhee has been awful busy, huh?
What are also no secrets are that the large amount of moves made significantly changed the character of Washington's hockey team and the moves made were not inexpensive in a few cases.
Despite the amount of moves the Caps' general manager made, the rumor mill is still spinning in the Nation's Capital. The weight of the team's character change and raise in payroll have fallen most heavily on star Russian right-winger Alexander Semin's shoulders as far as the rumor mill is concerned.
Naturally so, too.
Semin is known as a finesse player. He doesn't have the amount of grit that what the average Capital now has, so if a trade were necessary Semin might be a moveable piece.
On top of that, the Capitals are now around $800,000 over the salary cap. It's not a place that McPhee and the Caps are used to being in so that leads to the thought that McPhee needs to take a contract of significant size off the books.
So, with all the above taken into account, Semin looks like a shoe-in for a big-name trade, right?
Semin will not be traded. Here are five reasons why.
After years of paying Semin big bucks and giving up draft picks and prospects to try and bring in a proper second-line center to be Semin's pivot, the Caps have too much invested in the enigmatic Russian winger to give him up at such a crucial point in franchise history.
And by a crucial time in franchise history I mean that the Caps are now more than ever poised to make a Cup Run.
Okay, so Semin has a bad reputation in the playoffs. I'll get to that in the next two slides.
There are probably some teams that would show a lot of interest in Semin if he were on the market but the Caps wouldn't get as much out of him as most Caps fans probably think he's worth.
Why? Because of his big contract and reputation for being streaky. My guess is that a lot of GMs would be willing to part with significantly less than usual because of Semin's big contract. The mindset being that in exchange for taking such a large payroll off the books for the Caps, less would be required on the table in exchange for Semin.
So, too much is invested in Semin for the Caps to trade him for less than he is worth.
Of course, if they ever let him walk in free agency, which could potentially be next summer, they won't get anything for him. Still, with so much effort put into finding Semin a good playmaking setup man, McPhee seems to have made it clear that Semin is still a big part of the puzzle for Washington.
In my last article, predicting some outcomes of the upcoming season the Caps, I talked about how much of an influence Jason Arnott made on Semin in his short time playing in the District.
The veteran Arnott definitely made a big impact for the better on Semin as a person and as a player. Check out this article for a more in-depth explanation of how Arnott helped.
The point is that when Arnott came to Washington to play, Semin's play greatly improved. Semin's goal production increased but more than that he just looked a lot better and more complete on the ice. As odd as it may sound, Semin looked noticeably more disciplined after the veteran took him under his wing. Semin was making smarter plays, taking less hooking penalties and turning over the puck much less with bad plays and ill-advised dekes at the blue line.
Further, during the playoffs, Semin actually started going to the net. He's had more than his fair share of insults hurled at him in the past. He's been called many things insulting and questioning his courage and toughness.
Well, he made vast strides in all areas at the end of last season.
Semin is in his prime-age but his game is still improving and Boudreau and McPhee know that. Semin will not be traded this year. If he continues improving the way he has recently, he will be an even more deadly weapon for the Caps this year.
The scoring phenom seems pretty set on tearing down his reputation for being soft and rebuilding it, showing himself as a more complete, consistent, tougher and passionate player.
This will be a career year for Semin.
With past experiments Brendan Morrison, Sergei Federov, Matthieu Perreault, and Jason Arnott having not ended up been the right fits for Alexander Semin's as a center man. Anton Gustafson was supposed to develop into a potential second-line center, but never did.
On the other hand, after only one year in the NHL, Marcus Johansson is looking like he's ready for full-time second-line center duties.
Johansson started out the season slowly and even had a brief stint in the AHL to help him adjust to the North American game-style. However, during the second half of the season, MoJo really started turning on the heat.
During the last month or two of the season and in the playoffs, Johansson's skating looked much stronger and more confident and his point with the puck looked rather exceptional.
The Caps have made a hard effort to find a quality second-liner for Semin and now that they potentially have one, there is no chance that Semin will be traded. Every team needs a good second-line pivot but the main reason the Caps have gone after one is to give Semin a good guy to pair up with.
The fact that the Caps have spent so much effort finding a second-line center indicates that they intend to keep Semin.
Now that they have one, Semin and Johansson will give the Caps a deadly second-line scoring threat along with Brooks Laich.
This slide might seem a little be repetitive but I really want to iterate this point.
Alexander Semin is the key to the Caps. Ovechkin, Backstrom and Green are the big-name stars but Semin is the key to Washington's success as a hockey club. It's the same deal for every team: to be successful in the playoffs a team needs two quality scoring-threat lines.
The reason Semin is so important is that he does more than provide just a scoring-threat. Semin is top-line quality as far as offensive talent comes. Having Semin on the team effectively creates two top-three talent lines.
That's hard to defend against.
The amount of value Semin brings to a team hoping to make a deep playoff run is much greater than anything that could be brought to D.C. in a trade in exchange for Semin.
Semin won't be traded. He's too valuable.
The Caps are over the salary cap limit right now but trading Alexander Semin is not the answer.
McPhee has already hinted that the plan, as of now, hinges on the supposed likelihood of Tom Poti not being able to play next year. Poti has been struggling with a groin injury for some time now and missed most of last season.
The defenseman might be throwing a wrench into the situation as he now claims that he fully intends to participate in training camp in September.
However, if a salary is coming off the books it will be Poti's, not Semin's. There is the possibility of other players being traded or a guy like Jay Beagle being sent back to the AHL but the most likely solution to the problem is that Tom Poti gets put on a long-term injure reserve, which means his salary doesn't count against the Cap.
We may see Semin leave Washington next year, as the other part of George McPhee's more long-term plan involves Russian scoring phenom prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov may end up replacing Semin. Although if Mike Knuble decides to retire after this year there is a distinct possibility that we will see both Semin and Kuznetsov playing together as a one-two punch on the right-wing.
But as for now McPhee won't be making any more big moves. He stated, during his post development cap interview, that there might be a few more small moves made but nothing big.
Well, trading Semin would be big. It's not going to happen.
As frustrated with as many people might be with Semin and his playing style, he is still a very valuable asset to Washington's hockey club.
Semin will be sticking around for at least the next year. If Semin can perform the way I believe he can next year, though, hopefully he'll be staying in D.C. for a little while longer on a hometown discount.
The talented right-winger really began improving his game toward the end of last season and now that he has a second-line center to set him up he should be even more effective this year.
The combination of Semin's potential effectiveness, along with how hard Washington has searched for a pivot for the Russian and how poised the Capitals are to make a deep playoff run and potential Cup run indicate that Semin is too valuable to be traded.
Brace yourselves for another season of potentially being both awestruck and frustrated beyond wit. We should see more of the former than the latter but, still, brace yourselves. Semin will be playing in D.C. for all of the 2011-2012 season.