This was the decade of Alexander Semin. He spent over 10 years as Washington Capitals property, from the draft in 2002 until Thursday's signing with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Along the way, Semin became the longest tenured player on the team and the fifth-leading goal-scorer in franchise history. But his one-year, $7 million deal with Carolina represents the end of an era in Washington.
"For Alex professionally he needed a fresh start," his agent, Mark Gandler, said in a phone interview "He needed his role back that he's had a couple years back. He needed short-handed time, he needed to be in the last minute of the game on the ice, if he deserves it. He wants to have basically an extended role."
In seven seasons with the Caps, Semin enjoyed that for parts. But it became clear in his final season under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter that his tenure here would probably not last much longer.
Semin finished with just 21 goals, the lowest output in any full NHL season. In 14 playoff games, he had a game-winner but just three total goals.
Semin could have re-upped with the Caps, but Gandler said he and his client waited for his role to be expanded and didn't see it happen.
"That is not a problem. That's the organization's prerogative, and they did what they felt was in the best interest of the organization," Gandler said. "But we also, with the ability to move as a free agent, needed to do what's best for Alex's career. And I think this fresh start is going to be very helpful for people to see what Alex brings to the table when they isolate sort of the spotlight on him."
The spotlight shone on Semin in good times (197 career goals) and bad (450 penalty minutes, so many seemingly on stick fouls). When he beat the Boston Bruins in Game 3 of the first round with a snipe that exemplified his talent, Brooks Laich was asked how many NHL players could do that.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm just glad we have one that can."
Now the Hurricanes get to enjoy the best of Semin and the worst of Semin.
"We have done a lot of research about Alexander, and discussions about his fit with our team have included people at many different levels of our organization, including players, coaches and staff," Carolina general manager Jim Rutherford said in a statement. "Alexander's elite skill level and ability to score from the wing fill an important need on the ice, and we hope that a fresh start in Carolina will serve both Alexander and our team well."
Gandler called it a "great fit" because of the presence of Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen, Tuomo Ruutu and Jiri Tlusty as part of a "world-class" group of forwards.
It works for Semin, even at one year, because the Hurricanes assured his camp that he'd be used in all situations.
"That is exactly when they can get the best out of him. Carolina uses their best players to kill penalties," Gandler said. "I don't accept promises of ice time. I just want to know what the intentions are. And the intentions here are to use him in all situations. Hopefully he'll demonstrate that they won't make a mistake and he's a player that they need along with Jordan Staal to make that next step forward."
Obviously a multi-year deal would have been better for Semin, but Thursday brought no disappointment. Seven million dollars isn't a bad showing on a show-me contract.
"If you multiply that by 10 years, sure I'd be happier, no question about it," Gandler said. "But what happens is that a lot of teams, they expressed that to me and particularly the Canes that they would like to get to know their players and get to know Alex, specifically, and Alex to get to know them. If he deserves it, it'll come."
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