Lack of Interest in Alexander Semin Not As Mysterious As His Enigmatic Play, But Skilled Forward Should Find Work Soon


Lack of Interest in Alexander Semin Not As Mysterious As His Enigmatic Play, But Skilled Forward Should Find Work SoonNormally, a player with a 40-goal campaign and two other 30-goal seasons on his resume would be a pretty hot commodity in NHL free agency.

Zach Parise, who has topped the 40-goal mark once and reached 30 four other times, had just about every team after him on July 1 and ended up inking a 13-year, $98 million deal to head home to Minnesota.

Shane Doan, who has never reached the 40-goal plateau and has just two 30-goal campaigns in 16 seasons in the league, has at least a dozen teams looking to land him now that he's begun considering offers outside of Phoenix due to the uncertainty of the Coyotes' future in Arizona.

But what about Alexander Semin? He possesses the above-mentioned credentials, yet remains all but ignored on the free agent scrap heap 10 days into July.

Actually, being ignored would be an improvement for Semin, who has been savaged by critics this summer. The TSN panel for the Canadian sports network's free agency coverage on July 1 set the tone, with Marc Crawford labeling Semin as a player with "no character" and "a complete loser." And he was the good cop. Pierre McGuire really laid down the hammer as the bad cop.

"This is not a great teammate, I'm telling ya right now," McGuire told viewers. "Not a good guy to have around your group unless you got unbelievably strong leadership. He's the ultimate coach killer, that's what he is."

Mark Gandler, Semin's agent, called the exchange "the worst I've ever heard an analyst say about any player" and threatened "to check with my attorney" over the perceived defamation.

Other than those possible chats with his lawyer, Gandler's phone lines haven't been burning up with calls as teams have largely steered clear of the enigmatic Russian star.

The closest Semin has come to a nibble was this candid admission by Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford after the Hurricanes lost out in the Parise sweepstakes and were rebuffed in efforts to trade for Columbus forward Rick Nash.

"We would look at Semin on a short-term basis," Rutherford told the Raleigh News and Observer. "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."

And that was from a team that, according to captain Eric Staal, was just one elite forward away from being a contender.

"We've got some very good pieces in place, and if we can add, like they're saying, another elite forward, it will definitely put us in the mix among the top teams in the Eastern Conference," Staal told the News and Observer. "It's exciting. I hope they'll continue to push — and not just grab anybody, but the right person for our group."

It doesn't seem like Semin, for all his skill, is viewed as the "right person" by anyone in the NHL, or at least not the right person to commit to with a multiyear deal. That's nothing new for Semin. After signing a two-year, $9.2 million deal with Washington in 2008, he's had to settle for one-year deals the past two seasons, albeit with raises to $6 million and $6.7 million, respectively.

The latter raise came despite dropping from 40 goals in 2009-10 to 28 in 2010-11. After his production further waned to just 21 goals this past year, the Capitals cut ties and let him head into the free agent pool.

That goal total last season was his lowest since his NHL debut back in 2003-04, when he had 10 goals in 52 games. His play in the postseason has slipped as well. After posting 8-14-22 totals in 21 games in his first two playoff appearances in 2008 and 2009, Semin has just 7-5-12 totals in 30 games the past three springs.

Semin is still just 28, so there is hope remaining that he could finally harness his ample abilities to better effect. And with his skill set, he is still capable of becoming an elite sniper. It just may take putting him in the right situation with that "strong leadership group" around him that McGuire mentioned.

That could make Detroit or Pittsburgh potential landing spots, and both have made it clear they would like to round out their top six with another scorer. Both came up short in the bidding for Parise and have been links to the pursuit of Doan, but at least one of them will miss on him as well, and perhaps both will still be in the market for a legitimate sniper even after Doan makes his decision.

That market will consist of Semin and little else at that point, and that's when Semin may finally find a home without having to return home to play in the KHL. The Penguins, at least, aren't ruling out the possibility.

"Could we possibly look at [adding] a player in a top-six role? We certainly could," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma told reporters at the club's development camp on Tuesday.

Bylsma mentioned Doan specifically, but also addressed Semin as a possibility.

"Alexander Semin has scored 40 goals in this league and is a dangerous player," Bylsma said.

Committing a large cap hit to Semin could be dangerous as well, but it's a gamble someone will take in the coming days. And if playing on Sidney Crosby's wing can't bring the best out of Semin, then it may just be time to leave him on the scrapheap for good.

Have a question for Douglas Flynn? Send it to him via Twitter at @douglasflynn or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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