The Caps considered signing Alexander Semin to a multi-year extension, but the player and his agent decided that another one-year deal suited them best, GM George McPhee said on a conference call with reporters this morning.
Semin's deal is for $6.7 million, up $700,000 from this year's contract, and it does not include a no trade or no movement clause, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com.
"A lot of times when you do these deals, it's basically the player's preference," McPhee said. "Does he want to do short-term? Does he want to do long-term? Alex was basically comfortable with another one year deal and that was fine with us."
"We were wide open to [long term extension] discussions. We said we could do one, two, three years or longer if you want to talk about it. We were open minded about whatever you would like to do here. The player came back and said they were comfortable with a one or a two, and last week said a one year deal would be fine. And we said, 'Okay.' After that, it was a matter of working up a number. It was done this week."
McPhee also hinted that the extension had nothing to do with the approaching trade deadline.
"Alex was going to be with us anyway, so extending his deal a year really doesn't change anything, you know?," he said.
Asked why he thinks a player of Semin's caliber agreed to another one-year deal when it's possible he could have cashed in on the open market in a few months, McPhee said:
"I don't know, but maybe it keeps players hungry. I don't have a problem doing one year deals with anyone, and I admire the guys who are comfortable doing that. It gives them flexibility and this is what the player preferred to do. There may be some looking ahead to what the next CBA is going to look like, so why don't we just do one or two year deals until we get there and see how things work. That may have come into the process, I'm not sure."
The dollar figure, McPhee said, was linked to that of center Nicklas Backstrom, who also earns $6.7 million per season.
"We just didn't feel that it would be fair to go beyond that," he said. "They are two really talented players. I wouldn't call it a ceiling, but we just thought if the two of them were at that number, then everyone would be comfortable with that."
As you are aware, Semin has been sidelined with a groin muscle injury since Jan. 8. And before that, hadn't registered a goal in 14 games after a red-hot start that included three hat tricks in October-November.
Asked if the team's shift to a more defensive mindset might be behind Semin's slump, McPhee said he was unsure. He did, however, say that organization believes a more defensive posture is necessary to ensure postseason success and that offensive players' numbers are going to suffer as a result.
"There may be a connection, I'm not sure," McPhee said. "He's always been a streaky scorer, and when he gets hot, look out, he can score from anywhere at any time. We are trying to be better defensively, so we may have a lot of players who don't get the numbers they typically get. But they'll get good enough numbers to help us win."
"We've improved in a lot of areas this year. Our goaltending has been really good this year, our team defense has been really good this year, we've improved our penalty killing, No. 2 in the league. If you're anywhere in the Top 10 in the league in your penalty kill it bodes well for the big games."
"We've learned how to play real good defensive hockey the past six weeks. We're not giving up much to other teams. We're a goal away from getting a lot more points. When you put a 40-goal scorer back in your lineup and your power play starts to execute the way it should, that's the difference. We think that's the formula to win a lot this year and have success in the playoffs -- to be really stingy defensively and have game breakers in the game, and have your power play execute the way it should. This is how we want to play this year. We're hopeful that when you have a player like Semin back in the lineup, and an Eric Fehr back in the lineup and a Tom Poti, who has missed most of the season, those are players who move the puck pretty well, generate offense and it's a razor-thin margin now between winning and losing and those guys could make that difference."
Semin is expected to be ready to return after the All-Star Game break, and McPhee hopes he'll give the struggling power play the boost it so desperately needs. Right now, it's a lowly 19th, a totally confounding ranking considering the amount of offensive firepower on the team.
"The one area where we need to improve is our power play," McPhee acknowledged. "It's been good the last few years. It has let us down so far this year. Adding a player like this, putting him back in the lineup and having him on the power play, could be the thing that gets it going again."
McPhee also said he's confident that Semin will prove himself to be a playoff performer this spring. The sniper has taken a lot of criticism -- perhaps rightfully so -- for going 14 straight postseason games without a goal.
"Montreal may have limited him in scoring, but he had 44 shots on goal in that series, which is remarkable," McPhee said. "That's more than six a game. It's one of those, as we all know, a series where a goalie got hot and snuffed everybody out. But he has produced in the playoffs for us before. A couple of years ago in the Pittsburgh series, he jammed his thumb and we had to freeze it to allow him to play. That's a hard way to play. Before that he was producing. If you don't have those kinds of players in the lineup then you're too easy to shut down. I hope he has a great playoff and scores a lot. He's capable of it. Certainly I'm comfortable going into the playoffs with a player like that, because you've got have them if you want to succeed."
Okay, it's back to Hoyas for me. Katie should be in Raleigh by now and will take it from here.