One glance at how the Washington Capitals' roster has changed these past few days is enough for some to suggest that trading Alexander Semin is the smart next move. The argument is that trading the Russian winger would create the much-needed cap space to sign the Capitals’ best shutdown blueliner, Karl Alzner. However, moving Semin just to create cap space would do more harm than good.
Semin has been one of the most prolific scorers in the NHL since the lockout. Over that time period he has scored 166 goals, including five straight seasons of 25 goals or more and one season of 40 goals scored.
Fans only have to look at Semin’s ill-timed offensive zone stick penalties, chronic injuries or perceived scoring inconsistencies to be reminded how he has negatively impacted the Washington franchise. Despite these shortcomings, Semin holds the key for Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom to have any hope at a statistical bounce-back next season, because beyond them, the rest of the Washington roster is not made up of proven scorers.
Brooks Laich, who recently signed a six-year contract extension worth $27 million, has never scored more than 25 goals in a season. Mike Knuble can still find the net, but at some point, his age will be a factor. Eric Fehr has the scorer's touch but will likely start the season on injured reserve. Jason Chimera has produced a 17-goal season, but that was once, more than five years ago. It's doubtful sophomore center Marcus Johansson takes a huge step forward from his 13-goal debut and new acquisitions Joel Ward (career high 17 goals) and Troy Brouwer (career high 22 goals) have yet to show they can be consistent 20-goal scorers in the NHL.
Take a look at Washington's best five line combos (based on points scored) over the past two years:
Semin is on three of the top five, two of those combos without Ovechkin. Ovechkin is only on the list once without Semin, and one of the remaining trios features an injured player (Fehr) and one who is no longer with the team (Brendan Morrison).
Take Semin off the second line and not only do you reduce the Capitals’ scoring ability, you allow teams to stack their best defenders against the trio of Ovechkin, Backstrom and Knuble, stifling any hope that the triumvirate comes close to the magic it had during the 2009-10 season.