Alexander Semin’s bad reputation keeping teams at bay

When free agency began nearly three weeks ago, several teams around the NHL had the same issue that they were looking to address through either a weak free agent pool or through trade – scoring depth. However, only one team could land Parise, the preeminent scorer in the free agency pool, but that begs the question why scorer Alexander Semin, arguably the second best scorer in free agency, still remains unsigned?

The problem may come down to two different, yet related issues – contract length and work ethic.

Semin has scored 20 or more goals in each of his six NHL seasons with the Washington Capitals, and is not far removed from a 40-goal outburst in 2009-10. Questions about Semin’s attitude and work ethic have dogged him the last several seasons, however, with former teammate Matt Bradley publicly stating last summer that Semin, “has so much talent, he could easily be the best player in the league and just for whatever reason, just doesn’t care.”

These questions regarding work ethic have prompted general managers to steer clear of Semin this offseason, showing an unwillingness to take a chance on the 28-year-old winger. Some teams have expressed moderate interest in Semin, but only on a short-term basis instead of getting locked into a long-term deal that could backfire quite quickly.

“We would look at Semin on a short-term basis,” said Carolina Hurricane general manager Jim Rutherford. “We wouldn’t want to get locked in to anything, because we’ve all heard the stories about him. We do like his skill level. It could be that we could bring him in for a year, get to know him and go from there in terms of considering something longer term.”

Contract length seems to be a sticking point for Semin, who is looking for a longer term commitment from teams. But the vicious cycle continues because teams don’t want to award Semin a long-term contract until they test him out on a trial basis with a one- or two-year deal.

Money could also be an issue. Jiri Hudler and David Jones signed identical four year, $16 million contracts with Calgary and Colorado respectively. At the very least, Semin could expect a similar deal. But neither of those players ever scored 40 goals in a single season, which could bump Semin’s value up moderately closer to $5 or $5.5 million a season.

Alexander Semin seems like a logical fit with the Detroit Red Wings, who have $13 million in available cap space and are looking for a top-six forward. Plus, Semin has stated that he would like to play with Pavel Datsyuk, whom he played with at the World Championships. Datsyuk could be a positive influence on the young sniper, and Detroit has a knack for succeeding in reclamation projects (Bertuzzi, Cleary, etc.).

Similarly, the Pittsburgh Penguins may look at add Semin to help solidify their scoring. The team has been looking for a competent winger to play alongside Sidney Crosby for years now, and playing with fellow Russian Evgeni Malkin could have a positive impact on Semin.

The New Jersey Devils would love to add some scoring to help replace Parise, and the New York Rangers have expressed a level of interest as well.

But, again, it comes back to work ethic and contract length. None of these teams seem willing to take a risk on Semin and his bad work ethic and reputation. However, the potential to add a former 40-goal scorer currently in the prime of his career is too good to pass up. Eventually someone will budge, and either a team will offer Semin a long-term deal, or Semin will accept a one-year offer. It’s just a matter of when.

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