Slacker Hockey by Semin, Not a Bad Gig

Alexander Semin had an awful season last year with the Carolina Hurricanes. In fact it was his worst yet in his eight seasons in the NHL. His six goals and 13 assists were downright horrid in view of his huge five-year $35 million salary. Being paid like a superstar and underperforming is an understatement.

On April 24th, I wrote part two of “Inside Hurricanes Locker Room” transcribing the various exit interviews I did with ‘Canes players as they cleaned out their lockers at the end of the season. In that piece I relayed Semin’s own words when asked to explain his season:

“I don’t know what’s happened with me this year. (long pause) I have nothing to say.”

Semin had been recovering from a hand injury, but would not blame his results or lack thereof on the injury. He offered nothing.

Semin has a storied history. His tenure with the Washington Capitals saw seasons with 34, 38, and 40 goals. He was making a name for himself as a real superstar, one that then Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford could not resist.

He brought Semin to Carolina and combined with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty formed a top line that looked promising.

Oops

Rutherford signed Semin to the five-year deal and things promptly went downhill. He scored 22 goals in 2013-14 and a whopping six goals last season. Something was clearly not right with the highly paid Semin who clearly had talent and ability that he was either unable or unwilling to use.

While Rutherford’s making the decision to give Semin such a large contract was questioned by fans and some media, he had left town in 2014 to become the general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Semin was someone else’s problem. A problem that would emerge during last season with no apparent solution.

Have a Seat

New Hurricanes coach Bill Peters rolled into Raleigh from the Detroit Red Wings with a mission that included changing the culture in Carolina. One of the earliest challenges to confront Peters was what seemed to be slacker hockey in the form of Alexander Semin.

Peters is old school hockey, a no-nonsense guy who has little patience for slackness. His response to Semin’s seeming slacker attitude on the ice was to “have a seat.” (I wrote about Semin’s benching by Peters on November 1, 2014).

Peters benched Semin for several games in what appeared to be an effort to get his attention. WRALsportsfan.com reported that Peters said of Semin,

“He’s not moving his feet, not playing at the pace that the league is at.”

This was putting it nicely. Semin appeared unmotivated and disinterested early in the Peters tenure, and the benching was Peters’ way of trying to get his attention.

Ultimately It Did Not Work

Three months later I wrote a piece titled, “Ron Francis Coddling Alexander Semin?” It was late January and still nothing had changed. ‘Canes GM Francis said that they were continuing to work with Semin. Nothing seemed to be able to successfully help him to regain his former form, to get his goal-scoring groove back. There were a few moments of the amazing Semin like this goal against the Edmonton Oilers on March 8, 2015:

But the season ended with Semin having only six goals. Enough was enough for the ‘Canes.

See Ya

On June 30 the Hurricanes placed Semin on waivers. Francis said “see ya” and opened the checkbook for the next six seasons to the tune of $2.33 million. (I wrote about Francis releasing Semin here). Apparently paying him not to play in Raleigh is less painful than trying to get him to perform to his potential. Carolina decided to move on in their rebuilding process, and leave Semin to find out if another team would be willing to take a chance on him.

Habs

After a few weeks of waiting, Semin has been picked up by the Montreal Canadiens. They have agreed on a one-year deal which will pay Semin $1.1 million. All in all not a lot of money for the Habs to risk, especially if Semin turns in a season like those he had years ago in Washington.

If he continues to play like he did last season, or not play, Montreal will have rolled the dice and lost a comparatively small amount. A low-risk play by the Habs that could pay a big dividend. Or not.

Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette wrote that the deal has little downside for the Canadiens. Hickey wrote,

“There is little downside to the deal. Bergevin still has nearly $6.3 million in cap space and that will leave him with some extra cash after he signs Galchenyuk.”

Hickey acknowledges that the one-year deal may be an indication that this could be viewed as Semin’s last chance. In any event, to underperform for an entire season and get a couple of million to do nothing, and then have a team to chip in another million to give you another chance is not a bad deal for Semin. Slacker hockey, a good gig if you can get it.

Mark Shiver is a staff writer for The Hockey Writers credentialed with the Carolina Hurricanes. You can follow him on Twitter @markshiver