If there is one thing Hurricanes fans needed during this losing streak, it was some good news and that got that today when it was announced that the team had signed Alexander Semin to a five-year contract extension worth $7 mil. per season. Semin has been almost a perfect fit on Carolina's first line with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty as the trio have been one of the most dangerous units in the league. Both Staal and Semin are currently point-per-game players and are in the Top 25 in the NHL in scoring. They are both currently benefitting from high on-ice shooting percentages during five-on-five play and are probably performing a bit over their heads right now, but these two are still going to be a dangerous duo for a long, long time now that Semin is signed long-term.
Yes, $7 mil. per season is a lot of money to committ for 5 years under a $64.3 mil. cap and I have my doubts that Semin will continue to produce at a rate of over 3 points per 60 minutes at even strength, but before you go on about how much of an "overpayment" this is, ask yourself how much it would cost the Hurricanes to replace Semin. We are talking about a player who has been a legit first line winger for most of his career, has produced a very high rate in recent seasons and has filled what is a huge void on the Canes first line. People have criticized Rutherford for letting key players walk in the past and he made sure to not let it happen with Semin because replacing him would have been a huge task this off-season. Not to mention that it would have also been a PR nightmare for the team.
Like all contracts, there is obviously a lot of risks attached with this because $7 mil. per year is a lot of cash and Semin just turned 29, so he is exiting what is the prime of his career. His numbers could very well decrease over the next few seasons and make the deal look bad under the new cap. However, it's worth noting that the Canes have been trying to get their full money's worth with Semin. He plays in just about every situation (including the penalty kill now), is being used as a first liner and has been given just about every opportunity to succeed. So far, Semin has taken full advantage of this with his performance and I think Staal has also benefitted a ton from having Sasha as a linemate since he might be the most talented winger he's gotten to play with in years. I've talked about how Staal has elevated the shooting percentage of his linemates in past years and Semin's also had a high on-ice shooting percentage in past seasons, so it's possible that they could have some great years together after this season.
The only drawback of the Semin contract is the money and how much the Hurricanes have committed to next season under a $64.3 mil. salary cap. I have no issues with Semin being paid that much, but the Canes now have over $40 mil. of that cap space taken up by nine players. The Canes have themselves a nice core locked up, but the issue is going to be building around this corps with cheap contracts. They have plenty of space to give Justin Faulk a nice raise after Joni Pitkanen & Jussi Jokinen's contracts come off the books, but they are going to need to find bargains to occupy other depth roles. Jiri Tlusty is also due for a new contract after next season, as well and he may not come cheap unless his counting numbers take a nose-dive.
Carolina's younger players can probably step up into complimentary roles with the top-six spots being filled out, so the issue is going to be building a competitive defense corps on a tight budget. They have Gleason & Harrison locked up for awhile and should be able to re-sign Faulk but after that, things get a little dicey. It's doubtful that Ryan Murphy will be ready for a top-four role as a 20 year old and guys like Keegan Lowe, Austin Levi, Danny Biega, etc. are probably second pairing guys at the most. Blue-line help may need to be a top priority for Rutherford this summer.
There are going to be a lot of people against this signing but I think it's one the Hurricanes needed to make. They aren't going to find another Alexander Semin on the open market and he seems to like where he is in Carolina, so it's good that they were able to come to an agreement. The challenge is going to be building around him and the rest of the pieces Carolina has locked up for the next few years.