Montreal Takes a Worthy Gamble with Alexander Semin

Just when it seemed like Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin wasn’t going to address the gaping need for a top six winger, he went out and signed Alexander Semin to a low risk one-year, $1.1 million dollar deal.

The contract is very much a “show me” kind of contract as Semin was recently bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes after posting low numbers and suffering from numerous injuries. There is no risk on Montreal’s end of the deal as Semin could either struggle offensively and walk after this season, or he could easily score 20-30 goals.

Alexander Semin vs. Michel Therrien

For much of his NHL career, Semin has carried around the perception that he is a lazy player that struggles defensively. Montreal Canadiens’ head coach Michel Therrien demands that his players work hard and play solid defensive hockey. Semin has been a decent possession player over the course of his career and has started more of his shifts in the defensive zone.

As for the perceived laziness, Semin should be motivated this season after receiving a cheap deal and if he can score 30 goals, there won’t be any complaints. Either way, no doubt Therrien will be on Semin to work harder and play better. Semin doesn’t fit the description of a Therrien type of player (grinder with character) but the Habs need someone to score goals and if Semin can do it, you can’t put him in a position where you know he won’t succeed.

The cons aside, Semin brings the kind of skill set that Montreal needs to the table. In terms of pure talent, Semin is one of the most talented players in the league, and though his numbers don’t necessarily show it, he has shown to be a pure goal scorer with one 40 goal year and two seasons with 30+. He also has an underrated knack for making plays but no doubt Bergevin brought him in to score goals. Other than Max Pacioretty, Montreal is bereft of goal scorers as Brendan Gallagher can score but isn’t a sniper while Alex Galchenyuk is more of a playmaker.

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Low risk, high reward

The Washington Capitals hesitated to commit long term with Semin during his time with them and gave him one-year deals several seasons in a row and for the most part that worked. Semin had his best seasons in Washington. He played with some really talented players but it wasn’t like he rode on the coattails of Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom but the possibility exists that one-year deals helped keep Semin motivated throughout his career.

At the end of the day, this was a risk worth taking for the Montreal Canadiens. Semin wanted to stay in the NHL while the Habs needed a goal scoring right winger in their top six. If anything, Semin is a stop gap until a youngster like Nikita Scherbak is ready. The right wing position depth for the Habs was scary thin going into the off-season but now it looks respectable with Semin, Gallagher, Zack Kassian and Dale Weise. The Habs got what they needed in Semin and have given him another NHL chance, but now he needs to hold up his end of the deal too.