Updated, 5:37 p.m.: After seven seasons, Alexander Semin’s time as a Washington Capital has officially come to a close. Semin agreed to a one-year, $7 million deal with the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday, ending his run with the team that drafted him and wrapping up nearly a month of speculation as to where the unrestricted free agent would land.
“We have done a lot of research about Alexander, and discussions about his fit with our team have included people at many different levels of our organization, including players, coaches and staff,” Carolina General Manager Jim Rutherford said in a news release. “What’s been clear throughout this process was his commitment to wanting to play in the NHL, and compete against the world’s best players.
“Alexander’s elite skill level and ability to score from the wing fill an important need on the ice,” Rutherford added. “And we hope that a fresh start in Carolina will serve both Alexander and our team well.”
At the end of the 2011-12 season, it seemed unlikely that Semin would return to Washington after his agent, Mark Gandler, said that the Russian winger was unhappy with his role on the team.
That sentiment did not change over the course of the offseason. Despite significant alterations the Capitals made this summer — they include hiring an entirely new coaching staff led by Adam Oates and trading for veteran center Mike Ribeiro — Semin and his agent believed it was time to part ways with the team.
“It did not matter who the coach was or what was going on at that level,” Gandler said in a phone interview Thursday. “We felt that Alex needed a fresh start. He gets that with Carolina and with it he can start a new chapter in his life, in his career and hopefully it will work out both for him and the Capitals.”
Gandler, who declined to name specific organizations, said that 10 teams contacted him about Semin after the start of free agency, eight of which expressed “serious interest” about acquiring the winger. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Capitals did not make an offer to re-sign Semin.
Gandler previously stated that Semin was hoping for a multi-year deal, when asked why it was only a one-year contract with Carolina he acknowledged that the market “just did not work out that way.” The Hurricanes were in the mix from July 1, Gandler said, and their willingness to play elite players in all situations appealed to Semin.
“Professionally, he can deliver a lot more than he’s been allowed to deliver the last few years,” Gandler said. “Carolina was our best fit because of the great players they have on the team and the way they rely on top players.”
Semin, 28, recorded 197 goals and 408 points in 469 regular season games as a Capital. Over 51 postseason games with Washington he recorded 15 goals and 34 points, but his inconsistency in the playoffs drew regular criticism. For example, this past spring he was an impact player in the first round against Boston and recorded three goals in the series. The next round, he had only one point (an assist) against New York, took ill-advised penalties and was not contributing as much in the defensive end.
And therein lies the rub with Semin. While his place as one of the elite offensive players in Washington’s lineup was unquestioned, his work ethic often was questioned. The most stinging judgment of Semin came in the summer of 2011, when former Capital Matt Bradley said Semin “just doesn’t care”. Those questions prompted Rutherford to talk to many people around the NHL about Semin, including former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, according to the Raleigh News and Observer.
Whether a change of scenery was best for Semin and the Capitals remains to be seen. Pending the structure of a new collective bargaining agreement, the Capitals may have a front row seat to how Semin progresses with the Hurricanes. Under the current scheduling format, Washington and Carolina will play each other six times next season.