It looks like just a matter of time before the last big fish available on the 2012 NHL free-agent market signs with a team.
Alexander Semin could have easily been placed in the top five players available in this year's free agent crop, and, as of today, he is still available. That, however, may not be for long—or so it seems.
According to Terry Koshan of the Toronto Sun, Semin is extremely close to signing a deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins. That would make sense, considering they seemed to be in the market for a top-talent forward.
Remember, they were heavily involved in the process to land another free agent in Zach Parise but were beat out by the Minnesota Wild.
Sportsnet also reported the following in regards to the idea that Semin is going to become a Penguin in the very near future:
"Alexander Semin is on the verge of signing a 1-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, according to a report out of Russia."
If this were to actually happen, as the reports suggest, that would mean Semin is basically leaving the Washington Capitals to join the enemy. The rivalry between the Capitals and Penguins is huge and even more with a healthy Crosby and a producing Ovechkin.
Josh Yohe, the Penguins' beat writer for the Tribune-Review, tweeted the following:
It's no secret that Semin is interested in playing in Pittsburgh. But he wants a long term deal. Don't know if Pens are willing to go there.
— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_Trib) July 5, 2012
Yohe hits the nail right on the head when he asks if the Pittsburgh Penguins are willing to take on a player like Semin. After all, there are many positives and negatives that come with him.
If the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to pick up Semin—granting him the long-term contract that he wants—it will help out their front end immensely.
Sure, Semin's work ethic has been questioned, and his general character too, but there is still no doubting that he possesses an incredible amount of talent.
Pittsburgh also has on its roster the best Russian player in the NHL right now. The argument here will be that Ovechkin is better, but as stats would show, that is not the case.
Having someone who has so much influence on Russian hockey playing alongside him should help Semin perform to his capabilities. If Malkin can bring him in and get his game back on track, then Semin could become very dangerous in a Pittsburgh jersey.
Just imagine him playing on a line that consisted of either Evgeni Malkin or Sidney Crosby. Whoever you put him would mean a huge increase in production.
Just remember James Neal.
Last year was his first full year with Pittsburgh, and he got the chance to play with Malkin—and his point production sky-rocketed. Now, just imagine what would happen if a player who has the talent that Semin does were to play with Malkin or Crosby.
It would be no surprise if he was able to hit the 90 point plateau next year—if a deal ends up going through for Semin to join the Penguins.
As a player, Semin has one of the best shots in the league but also can be very hot and cold. It will be up to Malkin and the other stars in the room to keep him motivated.
They need to make sure that he stays at the forefront of the team and does not drift into the background. Otherwise, he will become the player he was in Washington.
He deserves to be treated like a star; in Pittsburgh, he will be. No matter what, he will be playing on a line with Malkin or Crosby and will not be put under them but with them.
Although there have been reports that Semin has been offered a contract to play for CSKA of the KHL, those have turned out to be misleading, as Dmitry Chesnokov of Puck Daddy tweeted:
As some asked re: the 3 year $30m reported offer to Semin from the KHL - false on both the term and the money.
— Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) July 9, 2012
Of all the rumours floating around involving Alexander Semin, it would make sense that the Pittsburgh Penguins would be the best option. They have the cap space to offer Semin a deal somewhere within the $5 to $6 million range, and they are a team that will be challenging for the cup with Malkin and Crosby.
If I was a player interested in winning a Stanley Cup, I would be leaving Washington too. Even though Pittsburgh may be your biggest rival, they are a winning team.