The Curious Case of Alexander Semin
Alexander Semin signed a one-year contract worth $6.7 million for the remainder of the season with the Washington Capitals. Alan P. Santos/DC Sports Box
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Alexander Semin is arguably one of the top 10 most offensively talented players in the NHL.  Since coming over from Russia to play for the Cpitals in the 2003-04 season, Semin has produced three 30-goal seasons and one 40-goal season last year during his career.  He has never played more than 77 games and twice failed to break the 70-game mark along with pushing 100 penalty minutes several times.
Semin played his first game in over a month on Tuesday night versus the San Jose Sharks.  He had four shots on goal but did not register a point.  Semin looked back in his usual form on Saturday against Los Angeles moving the puck quickly and unleashing his vicious slap shots.  He also made a terrific hustle play diving to the ice in the first period to snare an Alexander Ovechkin pass.  That type of effort is what Capitals expect from the Russian winger.

In one word his play in Washington has been inconsistent.  GM George McPhee obviously has faith in the 26 year old winger evidenced by the one year contract extensions worth $6 and $6.7 million that Semin has received the two years.  Semin’s goal scoring ability is unquestioning but his lack of discipline and frequent offensive zone penalties grow tiresome to many in the Capitals fan base.

Semin will not continue to accept one year contract extensions after this year.  McPhee will be forced to make a decision on his talented winger.  Is Semin worth 5 years and $30 million, conservatively, or is Washington better off letting him walk and sign a mega deal with an offensively challenged team in the NHL or even him go back to Russia to play in the KHL?  Complicating the decision is the friendship between Ovechkin, Semin and Varlamov.  McPhee deserves credit for prolonging this decision for another year, keeping one of the most potent power-plays in the NHL together.

The KHL seems like a dark horse when Semin is eventually a free agent.  He still uses a translator to talk to the media and although he’s more comfortable with the English language than he would ever let on, he’s never seemed totally uncomfortable in the United States.

As obvious as it might seem, I can see the Capitals retaining Semin long-term by only for the right price.  Phil Kessel, a similar player to Semin signed a 5 year, $27 million contract recently, which would put the earlier figure of 5 years and $30 million within reach.  The Caps will have the salary room but the question is whether they want to add a premier defender with that money to replace John Erskine instead of bringing back Semin.  Does his 40 goal potential outweigh the defensive mishaps and inconsistency from night-to-night?

The model the Capitals have built this team around is prolific scoring sometimes at the expense of other qualities that you’d want in your hockey team.  As long as McPhee and Boudreau are still here when it’s time for Semin to make the decision, I expect he’ll play the next 6 or so years on his career in a Washington uniform.