Hurricanes Free Agent Target: Alexander Semin

The Hurricanes are a team with plenty of holes but Jim Rutherford has made it clear that finding a forward to play on Eric Staal’s line will be the top priority, whether that be by trade or free agency. While the contributions that the team got from Jiri Tlusty and Chad LaRose were nice, they aren’t ideal first liners and probably wouldn’t be getting those minutes on a lot of teams in the league. So it is obvious that there is a big hole to fill there, but Rutherford is going to have a hard time filling this hole because the free agent market this summer is very thin if you’re looking for a winger.

The player who is first on most Hurricanes fans wishlist is Zach Parise from the New Jersey Devils, who is one of the top players in the league at his position. Fans really seem to want Rutherford to make a push for him and while it would be wise for him to do so, the problem is that he will need to outbid at least ten other teams in order to get him. Parise is going to want a very long contract and I don’t think the Hurricanes can take that risk right now. The team is rebuilding and still has long-term money invested in Staal and Ward, so I don’t think adding another 5+ year deal is the best way to go at the moment.

While the Hurricanes are going to need to take a few risks in order to acquire a top-level player, I don’t think that Rutherford can give Parise what other teams are willing to offer him. There’s just too many teams in the mix and Parise’s demands are going to be pretty large. There are other options, though and one of them might be unpopular with some Caniacs. Yes, I am talking about Alexander Semin of the Washington Capitals.

Semin might not have the greatest reputation around the league but he is a great talent and I think the Hurricanes might have somewhat of a realistic shot at signing him this off-season. Find out why after the jump.

Alexander Semin might be one of the most polarizing players in the NHL. Some people see him as a player with elite skill and an amazing shot that most teams would love to have. Other see a one-dimensional, lazy player who could be great if he “tried harder.” Basically your general Russian stereotypes. I am sure that Carolina fans are away of what Semin can do because he has torched us in years past (45 points in 41 games vs. Carolina) and we’ve seen him enough to know his playing style and habits, but what would make him a good fit in Carolina? Easy, the guy can score and produce points at a high rate at even strength.

Season GP TOI/60 P/60 Corsi Rel QoC Corsi Rel. On-Ice Sh% PDO OZ%
2007-08 63 11.95 1.75 0.228 2 7.23 949 60
2008-09 62 13.18 3.16 0.047 7 10.87 1021 59.6
2009-10 73 14.18 3.19 0.463 4.9 12.1 1052 54
2010-11 65 13.35 2.35 0.792 11.4 10.74 1044 55
2011-12 77 13.92 2.3 -0.34 11 9.34 1011 51.1

From Behind The Net. All even strength data

Yes, Semin’s scoring has taken a downturn the last two seasons, but 2.3 points per 60 minutes is very good and a higher rate of even strength production than anyone on the Hurricanes last season. He likely won’t get to 40 goals again, but I am sure the Hurricanes will be happy if they can get anywhere from 20-30 goals from him. Remember, this is a team that regularly played third liners and prospects in their top-six, so even Semin’s 21 goal, 54 point performance from last year would be a considerable improvement.

Another area where Semin can help Carolina is that he was a fantastic possession driver at even strength last season. This team severley lacked players who could consistently get the puck into the offensive zone and keep it there for prolonged periods of time. Semin and Staal should be able to do that and improve the Canes’ territorial game by considerable amounts. There are some red flags persent, though and they don’t all concern his tendency to take penalties.

The first one is Semin’s PDO and on-ice shooting percentages. Those are very high and it probably won’t surprise you that he scored 40 goals the season he had a ridiculous PDO of 1052. Semin’s career shooting percentage is about 14.1% and he was actually about 3% worse than that mark this year, so I think he’s already experienced some regression and could rebound as far as goal-scoring goes. His point total, however, is still subject to decline. He might be fine if he continues to drive play as well as he did last year, though.

Semin also faced weaker competition compared to year’s past, which is likely the result of Dale Hunter using him throughout the lineup, so that’s another thing to keep an eye on because he won’t be playing those minutes with Staal. He will also be playing a lot more at even strength than he has the last couple of years but I am sure that he won’t have much of a problem with that. 

The other thing that might drive people away from Semin is his supposed price tag. I am sure that he will have to settle for much less than the $6.7 mil. he was making this year if he wants to stay in the NHL, because no GM is going to pay someone that much after a 21 goal season. However, he is still going to look for a lot and I think Rutherford can only pull the trigger if he wants a short-term deal similar to the extension Ales Hemsky got. A long-term deal for Semin at 27 years of age just isn’t going to work for Carolina.

Big free agents are always a huge risk and I think Rutherford is going to be extra-cautious after getting burned on the Kaberle deal last summer. Semin might be the biggest risk that the free agent has to offer but unlike Kabelre, he still has plenty left in the tank and more than a few good years ahead of him. It is just tough to say whether or not Rutherford will take a chance on him or not because this could either work out well for the Canes or go horribly wrong.