Watching the Maple Leafs next season is likely going to be a grind. The team should be vastly improved defensively under Mike Babcock, but the personnel just isn’t there to finish, and things now appear particularly bleak with Phil Kessel shipped out of town.
The way things look now, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Leafs push the puck in the right direction more than they have these last few years – Arcobello, Parenteau, and the return of Winnik should help there – but they’ll be on the wrong end of some frustrating losses with such little star-power. If they want to take a stab at replacing some of Kessel’s offense, however, there is one free agent out there who’s still looking for a new home.
Alex Semin, recently bought out by the Canes after an incredibly down season, wants to stay in the NHL, and he’ll apparently take a one-year deal to do so. We’ve referred to these types of deals as “show me” deals in the past, indicating a potential bounce-back and the chance for another payday for the player involved. It’s essentially risk-free for the team to approach these types of free agents, but Semin is a little bit of a different case, and he’s actually already been down this road once (actually twice) before.
Semin’s agent says Alexander is ok with a 1-year deal for now. Refuses to talk about an option of the #KHL
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) July 5, 2015
As of today, it appears the Leafs’ top right winger is 32-year-old P.A. Parenteau. He’s a serviceable player, no doubt, but if he’s your main option there you might be in trouble. Parenteau also finds himself on a one-year prove it deal, and he should get plenty of opportunity to bring his game back up after a tough season, but as a late-bloomer he’s only played 347 NHL games and shouldn’t be relied upon too heavily to score. It simply isn’t fair to him.
With Semin, however, you have a player who’s actually out-produced Kessel over his career. If you compare the two in terms of points-per-game, Semin has been clipping along at 0.81 ppg while Kessel is a little behind at 0.78. In terms of goals-per-game, they’re dead even at 0.37.
The main reason the Leafs appear to have moved on from Kessel is his enormous contract and the way it might hinder their rebuild plans. However, it’s no secret they were less-than-thrilled with the way he fit as Toronto’s go-to guy, and there have been some questions over the way he could set examples for the up-and-coming crop of prospects. With Semin you get a lot of similar questions, but thankfully only one seventh of the term.
Semin is essentially no risk, and could pour in 30 goals. He might also score five. The guy is just such a wildcard.
Like I mentioned above, Semin has been down this road before when it comes to one-year contracts. He signed a deal with the Capitals in 2010 as a restricted free agent, then re-upped as a UFA the following year, again for one season, then left for the Hurricanes on another single-year deal in 2012 for the lockout-shortened season. Over those three seasons he scored 152 points in 186 games.
If we look at Semin’s HERO chart (from the always useful OwnThePuck via Domenic Galamini @MimicoHero), you can see his goal-scoring has taken a bit of a dip these past couple seasons, but his level of play in nearly every other area has been among the top half of the league’s forwards. For an offense starved team, he’s easily worth taking a chance on.
The Leafs are simply lacking skill and finishing power. With Babcock calling the shots and some added defensively responsible grinders in the mix, they should be able to at least put some teams on their heels, but it’s going to be tough to put the puck in the net.
Toronto locked up Nazem Kadri to a one-year deal yesterday and many think he’ll finally become the team’s top line center. Gone should be the days of Bozak eating up powerplay time on Kessel’s coattails. But if Kadri is to become a go-to source of offense, he’s going to need someone with skill to help him out. Semin might be the best bet there for your short-term money.