The Carolina Hurricanes made big news on Thursday afternoon by signing free-agent Alexander Semin to a one-year, $7 million contract. The news, as seen on NHL.com, boosts a Carolina offense that finished 16th in the NHL in total scoring during the 2011-12 season.
The announcement ends Semin's seven-year stint with the Washington Capitals where he accumulated 197 goals and 211 assists (408 points) over the course of 469 games.
Semin's one-year, $7 million contract is a slight raise over the $6.7 million the forward made in 2011-12. The move marks the third consecutive year that Semin has signed a one-year contract, with the other two coming with the Capitals prior to 2010-11 ($6 million) and 2011-12 ($6.7 million).
The immediate reaction to Semin's contract was surprise not because of where he signed or the length of the deal but because of how much money the Hurricanes ended up paying. Keep in mind that Semin's 2011-12 season saw him score just 21 goals (his lowest total since 2003) and just 54 points. How often do you see an NHL team pay a guy that has tallied 54 points in each of the past two seasons $7 million? How often does a player receive a raise after a noticeable decrease in production? Hardly ever.
The other questions that surround Semin's signing relate to his work ethic. Russian skaters have notoriously been stereotyped as being reluctant to help out on defense and are accused of taking key shifts off during a game. Semin is guilty of both stereotypes, rarely tracking back in pursuit and often loafing on shifts. Still, the offensive talent is undeniable – when Semin is locked into the flow of the game.
The Hurricanes must feel that a change of scenery may be what Semin needs to get back on course. Only three seasons ago, during the 2009-10 season, we saw Semin tally 40 goals. The Hurricanes are hoping that a move to a new club and a new cast of teammates may once again light the spark that saw Semin put up some of the best offensive numbers in the league. Semin and the Hurricanes believe they may have a fit that will produce better results than the ones we saw in Washington which includes an improved work ethic with and without the puck.
This deal could be considered a moderate risk for a big reward. Seven million dollars is no small sum but it might be worth it if Semin can finally put a bit more punch into the Carolina attack. Last year Eric Staal led the Hurricanes with 24 goals. Semin nearly matched that mark last season in a year that most would describe as the worst of his career. At the very least Carolina will be off the hook after 2012-13 concludes if this experiement fails.
Will Semin's signing be enough to lift the Hurricanes out of the Southeast Division's basement? That point remains to be answered but it probably won't hurt their chances. At the very least we'll all be able to enjoy six regular season games between the Hurricanes and Semin's old team, the Washington Capitals.