Detroit Red Wings: I’ll have the Enigmatic Russian? Wings Could Eye Alex Semin
By Rhys Richards (@RREsq)
While the summer can also be considered the winter of sports for hockey fans, the time between the awarding of the Stanley Cup and July 1st is akin to the exciting days leading up to a birthday during childhood.
First, the NHL Entry Draft gives every fan the opportunity to dream about the future for his or her team. Every team attempts to address its burning needs and sometimes settles on the best player available or the high-risk-high-reward player. With the occasional trade during the draft, more immediate pieces seemingly fall into place.
As July 1st inches closer, every fan believes that the top free agent will sign with his or her team. Every commentator, writer, and fan has an opinion as to where each free agent will land. Many discuss the players’ hometowns, penchant for the West over the East, and weather in any given NHL city. Many fans shake their heads at what can devolve into a sickening money grab. In recent years, players’ rights have been traded with more frequency, further increasing the suspense.
This June is unique in that the Red Wings have both opportunity and cap space aplenty.
With the recent retirement of team captain Nicklas Lidstrom and the trade of top-four shutdown defenseman Brad Stuart, the Red Wings have two gaping holes on their blue line.
Up front, veteran Tomas Holmstrom is considering a return, but Detroit has 11 forwards under contract already and may ask the long-time Wing to retire. While Detroit offered fellow homegrown winger Jiri Hudler a contract, he will test the market.
Detroit has made it quite obvious that it is in the market for a top-pairing defenseman and a top-six forward. With over $20 million in cap space even after it re-signs restricted free agents Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, and Kyle Quincey, Detroit is ready and able to spend for the first time in several seasons.
Lidstrom’s retirement, the trade of Stuart, the insane amount of cap space, and three consecutive early exits from the NHL playoffs all suggest that Detroit will make a splash at the draft or in the early days of free agency.
Many hockey minds believe that top defensive free agent Ryan Suter is all but a lock to sign with Detroit on July 1st, though his rights will likely not be traded before free agency opens. All signs point to youngster Brendan Smith finally joining the big club for good. Signing Suter is certainly not a foregone conclusion, but Detroit’s efforts to improve its forward corps may be more interesting.
Every NHL team would find a way to accommodate the contract and services of coveted soon-to-be top free agent forward Zach Parise. As free agency approaches, however, the dominant winger seems to be heavily considering re-upping in New Jersey.
If New Jersey cannot afford to retain their captain, the Minnesota Wild are reportedly willing to overspend to bring Parise back to his home state. Detroit will surely be in the mix if Parise becomes a free agent, but the Red Wings may be better suited to look at a cheaper option.
Enter enigmatic Russian Alex Semin. Semin was drafted by Washington 13th overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. After an extensive career in Russia, Semin joined the Capitals in the 2003-2004 season collecting 10 goals and 12 assists in 52 games.
Alexander Semin can dangle but the question remains whether he can regain his 40-goal-scorer status.
Semin returned to Russia to play with Lada Togliatti, the club he played with before he left for the NHL, during the 2004-2005 lockout. He remained there for the following season, finishing the year with Khimik Moscow.
In 2006-2007, Semin proved to Washington why the organization drafted him so high. In 77 games, he scored 38 goals and added 35 assists.
The following season, he produced a disappointing 26 goals and 16 assists to go with a suspect negative-18.
In 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, Semin returned to form contributing 34 goals and 45 assists and 40 goals and 44 assists, respectively. To put his 40 goals into perspective, only six players scored more goals than him that season. The names ahead of him included superstars Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Marleau, Marian Gaborik, and Ilya Kovalchuk. His offensive production came with some improvement in the defensive end as he finished with plus-36 that season.
Then the train went off the tracks.
Each of the past two seasons, Semin finished with 54 points. His highest goal total was 28. In 2010-2011, he only suited up for 65 games. This season, he achieved his lowest shot total since his rookie season with a mere 183 pucks on the net. The low number of shots went hand in hand with the second lowest shot percentage of his career. He also only scored six and two power play goals each of those seasons.
In short, the high performance machine that Semin showed the NHL as recently at 2009-2010 stalled.
This year’s crop of free agents is thin up front, which will undoubtedly drive the price of signing those free agents up. This likely trend is nowhere better evidenced than in Colorado’s recent re-signing of David Jones to a four-year contract worth $16 million.
Despite the weak market and probable overbidding, no NHL team in its right mind will pay Semin the $6.7 million he made last season as part of a one-year contract. In fact, no NHL team should pay him the $6 million he made in 2010-2011.
Should Parise re-sign or sign elsewhere, Detroit will give Semin a long look. The former 40-goal-scorer played wing on Pavel Datsyuk’s line for Russia, which won the gold medal in the World Championship this spring. In three games, Semin scored twice and added three assists. He posted nine shots.
More importantly on a team of lefties, Semin shoots right-handed.
Detroit wants Parise, but Semin could be the better signing if this spring was any indication of his chemistry with Datsyuk. While Parise could demand $8 million and a long-term contract, Semin could sign for something in the $5 million range for a shorter term. If that is the case, Detroit would be wise to consider signing him in the hopes he will return to his former glory despite the omnipresent concerns about Russian players bolting for the KHL.
Statistics, rosters, and other information obtained at www.nhl.com and www.hockeydb.com, and www.washingtonpost.com.
Share your thoughts about the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings, and hockey in general with Rhys at Twitter: @RREsq. He can be reached via email at RhysJRichards@gmail.com. Join the many fans of The Hockey Guys on Facebook and Twitter @TheHockeyGuys