This offseason, decisions will be made. There is no doubt about that. Several of these decisions are going to be very difficult to make for George McPhee, and in all likelihood, the Capitals are not going to able to retain all of their free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. In a salary-capped NHL, it is simply impossible to keep teams together for long periods of time. As such, on July 1st at 12:00 AM ET, eight Caps will be become free agents: two restricted and six unrestricted.
Among those who will not be a free agent, however, is Russian winger Alexander Semin, who has been a Capital his entire NHL career. Semin, who was originally supposed to be an unrestricted agent this offseason, was extended in January with a one-year, $6.7 million deal that will make him an unrestricted free agent next summer.
However, with another season of playoff heartbreak etched in stone, some have called for one of the Caps' so-called "young guns" to be dealt, and to bring in new talent in their stead. Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom aren't going anywhere, and Mike Green is an elite defenseman when he's healthy, so I don't see him going either. And that leaves Semin. So let's have ourselves a little look-see:
Those Opposed: When Sasha is on, very few in the NHL can be as dominating as he can; he has the ability to totally take over games. He's dynamic, he's electric, and he's fun to watch. The names Ovechkin, Crosby (yes, him, he's very good, get over it), and Datsyuk come to mind when comparing Semin's individual skill, his hands, and his speed. In his five NHL seasons, he has never scored fewer than 26 goals and has never totaled fewer than 42 points; both of those totals came in 2007-2008. He has scored over 30 goals three season, including one when he scored 40, and has averaged over a point per game twice. As I said before, he has the ability to take over games, he netted four hat tricks this year, and the Caps won every game. Washington also only lost twice in regulation when Semin scored a goal. He's offers the Caps an attacking penalty kill forward and he obviously is an asset on the power play because of his skill. He is, in short, a very valuable player.
Those In Favor: Despite Semin's incredible tools and potential to dominate, he is one of the most inconsistent players in the league. Almost half of his 28 goals this season came in those four games in which he recorded hat tricks, and he went through goal droughts of 17 and 7 games during the campaign. Alot of people, including me, think Semin often relies too much on his skill and skirts out on working hard to make things happen. Sasha has also struggled with injuries his entire career, only once playing more than 75 games (he played 77) and three times playing 65 or less. This not only robs the Caps of one of their main offensive weapons, but eliminates the chemistry that Washington needs so desperately on their revolving-door second line. Semin has a rap for disappearing in the playoffs, but he was second on the team in playoff goal scoring this year and though he was bad in the Tampa series, so was everyone else. And then, of course, there is his extremely annoying penchant for taking ill-timed stick penalties in the offensive (and defensive and neutral) zone. Semin was third on the Caps in penalty minutes despite playing in 65 games with 71; only John Erskine and Matt Hendricks had more PIMs.
The Verdict: See ya, Sasha. Semin is still young, only 27, and he would fetch alot on the trade market from a team with cap room to work with (Toronto, cough) because he is an exciting player who would put fannies in the seats. I could see teams shelling out at least two draft picks, one of which would be in the first round, for Semin, and that is good for teams like the Caps who have traded away picks in recent years at the deadline as they go after the Cup. Taking $6.7 million off the books for next year would also help the Caps if they wanted to sign Scott Hannan, which I don't think they should, or can for that matter, if Semin isn't moved. Washington could also go after a second line center and, of course, re-sign Brooks Laich with that extra money. Lastly, it is likely that Semin is going to want a long term deal sooner rather than later, and the Capitals, at this point, cannot afford to commit a large amount of money over a long period of time for an inconsistent and injury prone player like him.
Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!