Every year, a bunch of higher-profile trades happen well before the Trade Deadline, and everybody throws their arms up in the air, upset that all the joy has been sucked out of their favourite day. WIth that, every year, a couple of players hit the market out of nowhere and re-inject some life back into it, continuing the panicked tradition we’ve all come to know and love.
Today, word leaked out that Alexander Semin is unofficially on the market. Coincidentally, I’m starting to think that going after him might not be the worst idea in the world.
At thirty years old, Alexander Semin is having the worst year of his NHL career. In 35 games this year, he has just 14 points, with only two of those being goals. To make matters worse, Semin is in the second year of a five year, $35 million contract that gives him a cap hit of $7 million until the end of the 2017/18 season. To be blunt, the Hurricanes aren’t happy with this and would like to move on forever, as soon as possible.
So, here’s the thing; if you’re one who puts any stock into david Pagnotta and The Fourth Period, you would have read their report regarding Semin today. In said article, they stated that the Hurricanes would be willing to retain a “significant portion” of Semin’s contract to make a deal happen. Significant, of course, can be anywhere between a penny (or a nickel in Canada) to $3.5 million, depending on how they define it, but let’s assume that it’s $2 million.
Running with that unsubstantiated assumption that the Hurricanes consider a significant portion of Semin’s contract to be about $2 million, you’re now left with a $5 million player for the next three years. To be honest, I think that’s a risk that a team should be willing to take.
At thirty years old, Semin’s absolute best years are probably behind him. He’s probably not scoring 40 ever again, and thinking otherwise would be crazy. But, this is also a guy who is shooting at a career low save percentage while playing with Riley Nash and a struggling Jeff Skinner (who might be an interesting target himself).
Semin has historically been good for over two points per sixty minutes at even strength, and shooting well above the league average shooting percentage. What was 14.1% in Washington has turned into 4.2% this year and 9.1 overall in Carolina. I’m not sold that such turmoil will last forever.
Semin also hasn’t played a lot of powerplay time in Carolina. This year, he’s only played for 59 minutes, which is barely more than the Leafs have given Peter Holland, who basically never plays. In that time, he’s picked up four powerplay assists, which is one fewer than Tyler Bozak has in 204 minutes.
I think if the Toronto Maple Leafs were to take a chance on him at $5 million and play him in heavy top six minutes with first-unit powerplay time, his numbers could be boosted close to where they used to be. He’ll probably help drive play a bit as well; his relative CF% has only been negative once in his career, and despite his production struggles, he’s been above 55% in each of the last two years.
If Semin were to rebound, the Leafs could trade him for a healthy return with this decreased cap hit. Carolina would still be stuck retaining the prior amount, making that a non-factor in the process.
The Actual Catch
The biggest issue with this is that as more salary is retained, his value goes up. Ultimately, you’d have to see how desperate other teams are for a potentially fantastic left winger. A reclamation project is only worth attempting if it’s low cost, high reward, and the proper amount of retention could make Semin a high cost acquisition. If this happens, I’m skeptical.
There’s also some spitballing going on about a potential Semin for Dion Phaneuf swap. The theory, of course, being that Phaneuf makes the same amount of money, but for three additional seasons. I get the concept; being free after 2018 is something that sounds very nice, but I feel as if there is still some positive market value for Phaneuf and that there are still teams that would give him $7 million if he hit the market right now. There aren’t any who would say the same for Semin. While the concept is good, Carolina would likely have to give more positive value for this to make sense.
Alexander Semin is having a rough go at it of late, and probably isn’t as good at hockey as he used to be. That said, he’s probably better than he’s performed right now. The Leafs would be smart, if possible, to try to pick up a partially retained Semin at a lower cost and spend the next year putting him in ultimate position to succeed before selling him off.
Even if it doesn’t work out, he’ll at least be the most talented regular #28 in Leafs history.