After a month of waiting and negotiating, Jim Rutherford made his first big splash in free agency by signing Alexander Semin to a one-year deal worth $7 mil. I had been pushing the idea of signing the winger for the entire off-season, so you can probably imagine that I am happy with this signing. The Hurricanes were in need of a top-six winger for almost a year and they found a potential solution in Semin. For those who haven't been paying attention to anything I have been posting for the past month, Semin is a dominant possession player and has scored at a higher level than almost every Carolina forward the last few seasons. That should have been enough for multiple teams to sign him in early July but most teams have avoided signing him because they believed he wanted too much money and didn't think he was a good teammate.
Semin doesn't have the best reputation when it comes to being a team leader but if you look at just his on-ice production alone, it's hard to believe that this guy wasn't one of the most sought after free agents this off-season. Steven Burtch of Pension Plan Puppets made an excellent post responding to the criticisms directed towards Semin and determined that most of them were completely overblown. The idea that Semin is one-dimensional is compeltely bogus because he wasn't on-ice for many shots against and even KILLED PENALTIES for a couple seasons. He also touched on Semin's playoff struggles and how most of the focus has been on the last three seasons when the reality of that situation is that the rest of the Capitals forwards let their team down just as much as him. Semin, however, was the main scapegoat among fans and the media.
If you look at Semin's career scoring rates compared with this off-season's prized asset Zach Parise, you'll notice that they have very comparable numbers. Both players produced at least more than two points per 60 minutes at even strength. In fact, Semin scored at a higher rate at even strength than Parise while playing fewer minutes. Semin can also produce on the powerplay and lord knows that is a huge area of need for the Hurricanes right now. He also has experience playing somewhat tough minutes and can be an ideal linemate for one of the Staal brothers since at least one of them is going to take on the tough minutes next season. The Hurricanes lacked a winger who could play those kind of minutes, but they helped rectify the situation by adding Semin to the fold.
Most people are going to look at the contract and say "Holy cow, why would you give that guy $7 mil.?!?!" and I understand that because that's a lot of money to commit to a player but the fact that it's only a one-year contract makes this not a big deal. Look, Carolina had cap space and need to overpay someone to get the top-six winger they needed and if $7 mil. is what is was going to take to get Semin here on a one-year ticket than so be it. If he doesn't end up working out then he can leave when the season (or hopefully the post-season) is over. Plus, if you look at his on-ice production over his career then it's hard to say that he isn't worth at least $5 mil. per season. That's the money you have to spend if you want to acquire a top-six player through free agency in most cases. This team has the cap space right now and can afford to pay Semin $7 mil. for one year, which minimizes the risk.
Carolina went the buy-low route last season to fill their hole in the top-six by signing Alexei Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart and I don't even need to tell you how poorly both moves worked out, so it's understandable why they wouldn't want to take another shot on a player like that. Semin is not a sure thing either but he has scored at least 20 goals a season for most of his career, can play on one of the top two lines without much of an issue and drive possession at nearly an elite rate. If the Canes are going to take a gamble, then signing Semin on a one-year ticket is a good route to take.
The Hurricanes now have six legitimate top-six players and will not have to overslot third liners into top-liner roles or put trust in unproven rookies like they did last season. I think this will make a big difference next year and possibly make them more of a threat in the Southeast than they were previously. The defense corps is obviously a major concern but when you look at the prospective roster for this season compared to last year, you have to like what you see. This is going to be a better and much different Carolina Hurricanes team than in years past.