STATISTICAL ANALYSIS | With the season winding down, I thought it was a good time to talk about the Capitals’ enigmatic winger, Alexander Semin.
First of all, I’m a fan of Sasha Minor; I’ve always found him to be a good two-way forward, in addition to one of the game’s most talented players. And I’m glad he has found a mini resurgence under Coach Dale Hunter.
That said, he is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, which begs the question: Will he remain a Washington Capital?
However, before we answer that question, there are two others we must tackle first: “How much is Semin really worth?” and “Whatever he’s worth, should the Capitals pay it?”
How much is Semin really worth?
At his best, Semin is capable of making a major positive impact on his team on both sides of the puck.
Since the lockout, Semin has the 11th highest goals per game average in the NHL – better than Rick Nash ($7.8 million cap hit), Vincent Lecavalier ($7.7 million) and Thomas Vanek ($7.1 million). In terms of puck possession, Washington has seen 56 percent of all shots directed at net (including those scored, saved, blocked and missed) in its favor during even strength when the score is tied over the past five years. That’s a better rate than teammate Nicklas Backstrom, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler, who was voted the league’s best defensive forward last season.
Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu, who had one season with 20 or more goals, signed a four-year, $19 million extension earlier this year. Edmonton’s Ales Hemsky inked a two-year, $10 million extension and Toronto kept Mikhail Grabovski from testing free agency with a five-year, $27.5 million extension.
My best guess is that Semin is worth at least $6 million per year on the open market this summer, perhaps less if the deal extends beyond a three-year term.
Whatever he’s worth, should the Capitals pay it?
A quick look at the unrestricted free agent pool this summer shows there is not much available in terms of top-six talent.
Aside from Zach Parise, there are no other forwards available with multiple 30-goal seasons on their resume and have a few years remaining before their 30th birthday. And if you are of the belief that Washington’s change to a more defensive-oriented system these past two years have suppressed the offensive ability of Semin, then there is even more reason for optimism that his offensive production sees a resurgence under a new, more offensive-minded coach.
Looking at Semin’s comparables, even taking into account his injury history (which has limited him to an average of 67 games per season over his career), indicates there could be three to four more seasons of 25 or more goals. Not to mention that he has shown a consistent ability to tilt scoring chances in Washington’s favor. This past season, Semin has a plus-52 even-strength scoring chance differential – more than double the next highest (Mathieu Perreault, plus-24) on the team. Last season Semin was plus-26.
With no viable replacement on the open market available, and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s immediate NHL future in doubt, it makes sense to bring Semin back for another year or two at a price tag of $6 million.
Will Semin remain a Capital this offseason?
That all depends on whether the organization sees Semin as someone who makes the kind of difference Washington needs going forward, or if they view him as part of the reason this team has underachieved these past few years.
But if it were my decision, he would certainly be back next year.