When Carolina Hurricanes President and General Manager Jim Rutherford signed forward Alexander Semin in July 2012, it was seen as a low-risk, high-reward acquisition; Semin was an elite talent, but a year-long contract wouldn’t hamper the Hurricanes in a square-peg-in-a-round-hole situation.
As it turned out, Semin was the perfect fit.
Just ask him.
“I’m very happy. It’s not a good season (for the team), but for me, I like playing here,” he said in an English-speaking exit interview. “It’s a good town, a good atmosphere and a good organization. I’m very happy.”
Ask Eric Staal, who waited patiently last summer as the team aggressively pursued a top forward to play beside him. When asked if the team was in a better position this summer as compared to last, he offered a simple and confident, “yes.”
“Our line was effective most nights,” Staal said in his exit interview. “We’re trying to build something that’s going to be consistent and be in the playoffs every single year. I feel like we’ve got pieces and parts there to do that.”
Ask head coach Kirk Muller, who said that Semin, while largely reserved with the media, was one of the most forthcoming behind closed doors.
“We needed a player to play with Eric last year, and we brought in Semin. That gave us our number one line,” he said.
Ask Rutherford, who inked Semin to a five-year, $35 million extension in late March, securing the 29-year-old forward through the 2017-18 season.
“It’s hard to get elite players in this league, and when you look at Alex’s numbers and compare them to the elite players, his numbers season after season are very strong,” Rutherford said shortly after the signing. “It puts an elite player in the lineup for the next five years, and makes a real strong number one line with Eric and Jiri.”
In his first season with the Hurricanes, Semin was a point-per-game producer, with 13 goals and 31 assists (44 points) in 44 games. He ranked second on the team in points, assists and plus/minus (plus-14) and third on the team in shots (150). In his last 26 games alone, he assembled a five-game point streak and two four-game point streaks.
The Canes’ first line of Semin, Staal and Jiri Tlusty combined for 135 points (54g, 81a), and the trio was a collective plus-34. Dating back to the 2008-09 season, Semin is a cumulative plus-106.
“They are good guys. I like playing with them. We understand each other,” Semin said of his linemates. “I understood them from my first practice.”
Though often undisclosed, Semin battled through a few injuries, including a shoulder ailment late in the season that impaired his shooting ability.
“Now it’s better, but it’s a little uncomfortable,” Semin said. “I can’t shoot 100 percent, but I’m playing.”
Semin, who was riding a four-game point streak (3g, 3a) at the time, was sidelined with a concussion for the final two games of the regular season.
“This season is over. We’ll forget this season,” Semin said. “We’ll learn from these losses, but we will try to play next year in the playoffs.”
For Semin, a member of the Washington Capitals for his first seven seasons in the NHL, this offseason came relatively early, as Washington qualified for postseason play in each of the previous five seasons (2007-2012). In 51 career playoff games, Semin has posted 15 goals and 19 assists (34 points).
Semin, a native of Krasnojarsk, will spend his offseason in Russia before trekking back to Raleigh for training camp in September. Next season, he said, will be different than this year.
“We are going to try to win every game. That’s it,” he said with a smile. “Next year is a new season with new emotions. We just want to try to win.”
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