RALEIGH, N.C.—Arguably the most highly-criticized signing of the NHL off-season took place in North Carolina this summer, when the Hurricanes and Jim Rutherford inked Alex Semin to a one-year, $7 million contract—making him the second-highest paid player on the team, behind only Eric Staal.
The enigmatic Russian, despite his world-class talents, had played his way out of Washington; and, in the process, created a poor reputation for himself. When Carolina announced the signing on July 26, many pundits were quick to condemn.
And with signing of Semin, Hurricanes remove themselves from list of teams worth taking seriously this season.
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) July 26, 2012
On one hand, the $7 million salary—now prorated due to the lockout—makes sense given Semin’s elite goal-scoring ability. On the other, his well-documented character issues made it a somewhat risky move.
If the first three games are any indication, however, the pros of bringing Semin in for 2012-13 should outweigh the cons.
While the 28-year-old has yet to register a goal with the Hurricanes, he’s been putting a lot of pucks on net and been playing a more complete game than I think most people expected out of him. He’s tallied nine SOG in total, good for fourth on the team.
One of those shots earned him his first point with Carolina, as it eventually led to Jeff Skinner burying a backhander against the Lightning:
The general consensus from the Canes locker room is that Semin has been a positive addition to the club, and that he hasn’t given anyone a legitimate reason to believe otherwise.
Said Jeff Skinner: “He looks great out there. The goals are going to come for him.”
In addition to his teammates, Semin’s head coach has been impressed with the right winger, as well.
“I’m really happy with him,” Kirk Muller said. “He’s getting his chances. He’ll capitalize—we all know that.”
Putting in the Work
Semin’s work ethic was one of the main concerns for Hurricanes fans heading into the season. A big part of the aforementioned reputation was his knack for looking lazy and disinterested on the ice, but that hasn’t been an issue up to this point.
The effort is certainly there from him, both offensively and defensively.
“He’s been cautious on the defensive side,” Muller said. “He’s been making smart plays.”
Giving Staal Some Firepower
Perhaps the biggest reason the Canes ponied up the cash for Semin was to give Eric Staal a high-end linemate, something he’s lacked in recent years (and through most of his career, if we’re being honest). So far, Semin has proved to be a big help for Carolina’s captain, even when it doesn’t show up on the box score.
Semin’s presence forces opposing defenses to focus on him, which has opened up the ice quite a bit for the eldest Staal.
“He’s a target as far as paying attention for him, and I think that opens it up for Eric,” Muller said. “I think Eric’s happier right now playing with him.”
Semin will get another chance to earn his first goal with the Hurricanes on Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.