The Habs signed the 31-year-old forward to a one-year, $1.1 million deal over the summer following a buyout of his contract in June by the Carolina Hurricanes.
Semin was a strong player, playing both ends of the ice with the Washington Capitals once upon a time. He was perpetually put on short-term deals though, which was explained by ESPN’s Scott Burnside after he talked to a GM, saying “Anything more than a short-term deal will invite chaos when it comes to the immensely talented but easily distracted Semin.”
The Hurricanes gave Semin a short-term deal and he rewarded it with a point-per-game pace during the lockout-shortened season. They put him on a long-term deal and everything fell apart, culminating in a six-goal, 13-assist performance last year through 57 games. They bought out the three years remaining on his five-year contract.
After the buyout the Montreal Canadiens saw the opportunity to get a player with immense upside at a bargain basement deal.
But the upside wasn’t realized. Semin has been scratched and has put up just one goal and three assists through 15 games.
Semin is an enigma. There’s clearly a boatload of talent at his disposal, but his career has been marked by peaks and valleys where he has shown immense skill and then a seeming unwillingness to put in his full effort. There are teams that will at least discuss the possibility of acquiring Semin, but it’s tough to know how to unlock what he’s shown in the past and whether or not it’s still there as he enters his early 30s.
Despite his struggles, he’s been a positive relative possession player over the last three seasons, posting a score-adjusted CF%Rel of 3.8% (56.6% CF%) with Montreal this season and was a 2.9% (54.6% CF%) and 6.5% (54.6% CF%) over the two prior seasons. There’s reason to believe that there’s still something in the tank and that he may be able to have a positive impact on a team outside of the playoff picture right now, if he can be placed into a third line role that has some scoring ability.
Dustin Nelson is the News Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s a contributor to Hockey Prospectus, Hockey Wilderness, and writes a column for Rotowire. He’s also written for Gone Puck Wild, Wild Xtra, InDigest, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Tiny Mix Tapes, Prefix Magazine & other publications. Have a tip? Email him at dlukenelson[at]gmail[dot]com.