Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee used the first day of the All-Star break to sign right wing Alex Semin to a one-year contract extension. Reports have the deal worth $6.7 million. Semin was earning $6 million this season, and was set to become and unrestricted free agent at season’s end before inking the new extension.
Semin’s ability to disappear for extended stretches is as well documented as his scoring prowess. The Russian winger scored 40 goals in 2009-10, but managed to go seven playoff games without a single marker while his play was declared impressively uninspired by some. Semin’s up-and-down play has carried over to this season. As Greg Wyshynski points out, Semin was among the league’s hottest scorers through October and November but has managed just one goal since the Capitals’ Nov. 28 win over Carolina. To boot, Semin is currently on injured reserve with a “lower body” injury.
We’re not labeling this as a bad deal by any means. In fact, it’s a rather mutually beneficial deal for the two parties. There’s the school of thought that a preemptive move to avoid Semin’s impending UFA status will help him concentrate solely on his game. Semin is a proven goal scorer on a team with several offensive stars that are having trouble finding the back of the net this season. With the comfort of a new deal in hand, Semin will be expected to provide some much needed scoring upon his return to the lineup.
Of course, there’s the issue of his playoff performance over the Capitals’ last two series. Semin is without a goal in the Capitals’ last 14 playoff games (Montreal 09-10, Pittsburgh 08-09). That’s where there’s some benefit to McPhee and the Capitals in the one-year extension. If Semin turns in another disappointing offensive playoff performance this April, then it’s going to be hard to believe that he’ll remain with Washington beyond the end of the 2011-12 season. Poor playoff peformances or not, there’s always a trade market for offensive stars too.
Should anyone be surprised by the timing of the deal? Not if you’ve kept tabs on McPhee’s approach with Semin.
George McPhee hinted at in-season contract negotiations back in the fall when speaking with media, via Japers’ Rink:
“Well, an evaluation of his contract situation will be given at a later date. Of course it does happen sometimes that a new contract is signed during the course of the season, but to a great extent that depends upon the players themselves.”
McPhee also had Semin’s back when pressed about his play during the team’s upset loss to the Canadiens last spring, too:
“No. He played outstanding during the playoffs last season. The fact that the puck didn’t make it into the net does not mean that he played poorly. He made 44 shots on goal! I don’t think there was a single player in the entire league that made as many shots in a single series of those playoffs. No, he doesn’t have to prove us anything.”
Tarik El-Bashir stated on Twitter that the Capitals were actually seeking a multi-year deal with Semin, but that the winger was only seeking a one-year pact. The reasoning? Your guess is as good as ours, but it will be advantage Semin is he turns up the goal production between now and July 1, 2012. For now, the deal should give both sides some peace of mind as they head down the stretch.