With the offseason in full swing for the Stars, I thought it would be a good time to start looking forward to the parts of the summer most fans normally are looking forward to. Over the next couple of weeks and months, things at Blackout Dallas are going to start shifting more and more towards free agency, the upcoming draft, and possible trades. And what better place to start than with a “new-ish” topic.
Over the last week since the Washington Capitals were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, quite a few things have been said about Alexander Semin. The “Other Alex” on the Caps has signed two, one year extensions the last two summers to stay with Washington. But this summer it appears he will likely be finding a new home. While the door has not been 100% shut on him returning with the Capitals, I think it it far more likely he is wearing a new sweater in October. There has been speculation about if he would go over to the KHL if offered more money overseas, but I also have this feeling that at least two or three teams will be interested in paying him good money.
Recently I have seen some fans of our beloved Dallas Stars ask if the Stars should be interested in the winger and if we could be another option in free agency this summer. With new ownership and money in the franchise, many of the faithful are dreaming big and praying the Stars can land one of the two big names in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. While the Stars adding an all-star caliber player to the roster and getting back into free agency like they used to would be great, signing both is likely impossible and even getting one would be huge. Past the top two “studs” in this summer’s free agency class, the class itself is not a strong one. Semin has issues and questions surrounding him, but he is definitely in the mix of the few valuable players after the two coveted free agents.
For those that don’t know a lot about Semin, here is a little background for you. The Russian winger was Washington’s second of three first round picks in 2002, drafted 13th overall. His early transition into the NHL was side-tracked by the lockout and then he played in Russia fulfilling his obligation to serve two years to his country. After his time overseas, Semin hit the ground running right away during the 2006-07 season when he compiled 38 goals (17 on the powerplay) and 73 points in 77 games. His next season was sidetracked some from injuries, but during the 2008-09 and 09-10 he had a combined 74 goals and 163 points in only 135 games, establishing himself as top offensive threat and contributor as the Capitals grew into one of the league’s better teams. But over the last two seasons Alexander has only contributed 49 points and 108 points, a drastic drop from elite threat to 2nd line scorer. Add to that a lot of criticism about his drive and defensive game, and he has earned a bad rap as the Capitals have encountered issues and gone through changes.
Now the right-handed winger is 28 and set to hit the free agent market. And while Parise will be the most sought after forward this summer, Semin could be not too far behind him if he is willing to take less money. Over his NHL career, Parise is averaging .817 points per game. What would surprise some is that Semin’s average is .870 per game. Also with more games played, Zach Parise has four less powerplay goals in his career than Semin and 25 assists. Some more stats to think about? Semin has been a positive player in the plus/minus column for four seasons in a row, while Parise went -5 this season. So in the end Semin looks like the better threat just from some of the big stats. And it doesn’t hurt that Semin is a right-handed player that tends to play left wing but can play both sides.
So why is he considered less of a player. Well Parise is the noticeably better two-way player just because Semin has shown at times that he will give up on plays going the other way. Also Parise has a better track record with durability. While Zach missed one season because of a knee injury, he has played more than 80 games in his other six NHL seasons. Since his return from Russia, Semin has never played less than 60 games but has never hit the 80 game mark. Add on that Parise has his great international track record and history of being a leader, alternative captain, and now captain, and Parise definitely looks like the player most teams would rather have for the big price tag.
But while Parise and Suter will be chasing raises this summer, Semin is likely to see a decrease in pay from the $6.7 million he made this past year. He has the track record to show that he can score and definitely could be a top-line weapon, but the drop-off in production over the past two seasons, lack of powerplay production this season, and work ethic issues could definitely scare away teams. So where does he fit in? Think about Michael Ryder, but younger and with a bit more to prove. Ryder had produced in the past but had a couple of rough seasons before he came to Dallas this past year. One season later and the local fans are in love with the veteran right-winger. While Semin will likely want more than $3.5 million a year and want a longer deal than two years, if he took lesser deal like Ryder he could benefit from it. If he is willing to take a 2-3 year deal for $4-5 million a season or a deal that is loaded with payment clauses if he hits certain numbers, a handful of teams would definitely be interested. And the Stars could be in that group, and I would have no problem with them at least looking at him and bringing the Russian in for a visit to Dallas.