Oh where to start with this one…. Alexander Semin is known to be soft, he has an awful reputation for disappearing when a season matters most and he’s outstayed his welcome in Washington on a team that collectively has (massively) underachieved. Despite all this, there is a lot to like about Semin as a potential free agent target.
Barring a generous contract offer from the KHL, or an offer from one of the NHL’s lottery teams desperate for a quick fix, Semin is highly unlikely to get the same kind of money he earned this season ($6m) this summer. If Semin wants to play for a team with playoff/Cup aspirations, he will certainly need to keep his demands relatively modest.
Semin has a wicked shot and is a pure goal scorer who has proven he can be a point/game player in the NHL. There are not many of those to be had on the cheap. He can produce offensive on his own, something that he had to do a lot of in Washington because for most of his tenure the Caps lacked a skilled second line center to take advantage of Semin’s ability. Alex Ovechkin (rightly so) was the main beneficiary of Nicklas Backstrom’s playmaking abilities leaving Semin to play with the likes of Troy Brouwer, Marcus Johansson, and aging veterans such as Jason Arnott and Brendan Morrison.
There are several legitimate reasons to consider Semin as an option for the Rangers.
First of all, the ‘only’ thing he costs is dollars. Unlike acquiring Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan or even grabbing Nashville’s Radulov, Semin doesn’t cost the organisation assets and given that the Rangers never worry for cash, his contract would be of no concern other than for the cap mathematicians at the MSG. He’s unlikely to be able to demand a long-term commitment given his damaged reputation. Compared to Zach Parise there is no risk in that aspect either.
Then there is the Marian Gaborik factor. With Gaborik likely to miss a chunk of next season (barring CBA complications) and likely needing plenty of time to get back to full speed, the Rangers lack of top end skill is even more noticeable than it was toward the end of their recent playoff run. Enter Semin? The Russian could play on either of the top two Rangers lines (with or without Gaborik) and the Rangers have more play-making support (in the form of Richards, Stepan and even Anisimov) than the Capitals had down the middle. The Rangers should be able to put Semin in a position to succeed.
Semin is clearly not built in the Tortorella mould and that would be a significant concern. He’s a finesse player (to put it politely) and there’d have to be some compromise on both sides if Semin would join the Rangers and be a success. However, has that process already begun? With Tortorella’s recent comment “You have to be really careful about ruling people out; you don’t want to box yourself in” maybe the coach has truly recognised he needs to embrace (aka tolerate?) skilled types such as Semin.
Simply put, Semin scores goals at an impressive rate. With a 40 goal season on his CV -backed up by two 30 goal campaigns – the main issue that has stopped those numbers from being even more impressive is a Gaborik-like health résumé. With three of his last five seasons producing less than 70 games played, Semin will never win any ironman contests.
The bottom line is this: rarely does such an elite level, skilled player such as Alexander Semin potentially come with such little risk. If a one or two year deal proves unsuccessful the Rangers can simply move on from a failed experiment, from a calculated risk. There is no ripple effect of lost assets or tears from missed opportunities, such as a window of contention slamming shut. The Rangers are one potential contender (and a young one at that) that can afford to give Semin a second chance. It could work for both sides.
*Be sure to check out the rest of our free agent coverage here.