Alexander Semin: Smart Gamble for Montreal Canadiens


Less than a month after being bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes, Alexander Semin found a new home today.  The Montreal Canadiens signed the skilled, yet problematic winger, to a one-year $1.1 million contract.  It’s a move that makes sense for both sides and will eventually lead to Semin looking to sign a long-term deal elsewhere next summer.

Trust me, I know there is a lot to dislike about Alexander Semin.  He’s doesn’t carry the best reputation around the league (okay, he’s pretty much the go-to answer for the question, “who is the laziest player in the NHL?”)  He only had 6 goals and 13 assists in 57 games this past season with Carolina.  Yes, the small-market Hurricanes preferred to write him a check to go away as opposed to playing him, despite only being two years into a five-year contract that was to pay him $35 million total.

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All fair and reasonable points.

But, few can question his skill set and his play-making ability.  Prior to his disasterous 2014/15 season, Alexander Semin scored at least 20 goals in seven of eight seasons (the only non-20 goal campaign was the lockout season.)  He’s put up more than 70 points three times, including an 84 point year in 2009/10.  He still possesses a deadly shot that can make any goalie look foolish.

Look, I get it.  His best years are behind him.  And there is a reasonable chance that Canadiens’ coach Michel Therrien strangles him on the bench one night (that alone would be worth the contract.)  But for $1.1 million, it’s a smart risk by the Canadiens to try to improve on an offense that ranked 20th last season in goals per game.  After Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher, the Canadiens just don’t have much firepower on wings.  And considering defenseman P.K Subban led the team with 8 points during the playoffs, where is the downside to signing Semin?

If Alexander Semin can score 20 goals and actually give a damn on the ice, the contract will be a home run for the Canadiens.  If he lives up to his reputation, the Canadiens can easily get rid of him with no future impact.  After missing out on Patrick Sharp on the trade market and whiffing during the first three weeks of free agency, there is no doubt that Semin represents the biggest potential for an impact player Montreal could have hoped to land without trading one of its own from the current roster.

For Alexander Semin, he isn’t expected to be live up to the expectations of being a $7 million player.  He is being paid what most third and fourth liners are receiving, except none of those bottom-six types have the offensive ability that Semin does.  Perhaps the frustration of playing with the lowly Hurricanes wore on him to the point of apathy and the change of scenery will re-charge his batteries.  Canadiens’ general manager Marc Bergevin is counting on that.

But even if Semin is really on his last legs and 2014/15 is a harbinger of things to come, the Canadiens knew they had to try something to bolster the offense.  With Eastern Conference Champions Tampa Bay, up-and-comers like Ottawa and Florida, and re-building squads like Toronto and Buffalo poised to take steps forward, the Canadiens couldn’t just sit back and expect another Atlantic Division title next season.  It took a herculean-season by Carey Price to get there, and it’s unreasonable to expect a repeat performance this season.  Quite simply, the Canadiens need to score more goals.

For Alexander Semin, even if he scores 20 or so goals, he should expect this summer’s routine to become the norm.  Any team foolish enough to sign him for more than one-year will regret it almost instantly.  A one-year deal? Smart business to try to keep him motivated.  Beyond that?  It’s playing with fire.  Just ask Hurricanes’ owner Peter Karmanos his thoughts on the player and those who sign him.

However, it’s been a quiet few weeks, and in a summer where few game-breakers were available in free agency, the Canadiens made the smartest gamble.  Now the rest is up to Semin.

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