Hockey notes: Ex-Cap Alexander Semin earns a long-term deal with Hurricanes

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The Carolina Hurricanes followed the Washington Capitals’ pattern last summer when they gave Alexander Semin a one-year deal. Given his sublime talent and the baggage that came with it, $7 million for one season was a low-risk, high-reward venture. This week the Hurricanes signed Semin to a five-year, $35 million contract, the longest and most lucrative of the mercurial winger’s NHL career. It’s a bit more of a risk considering the tenure, but it’s one Carolina made after Semin’s strong performance so far.

“He’s been great. We just asked him to come in and be a part of the team and contribute offensively,” coach Kirk Muller said recently. “He’s had really good chemistry so far this year with [captain Eric Staal].

“To be honest, things are good with him and his teammates. He’s having fun, he’s very professional, he comes to the rink ready to go and he’s been easy to coach so far.”

With eight goals and 22 assists in 30 games, Semin is ranked second on the Hurricanes in points, behind only Staal. Those two have enjoyed success playing alongside left wing Jiri Tlusty.

“We’re very happy to retain Alex,” general manager Jim Rutherford said in a statement. “He is an elite player and has been a major contributor to the Hurricanes having a strong top line.”

Semin turned 29 earlier this month. Aside from his entry-level contract, his previous longest deal was two years for $9.2 million by the Caps. Washington signed him to one-year deals worth $6 million and then $6.7 million before letting him go as an unrestricted free agent last summer.

The Hurricanes made a major commitment in signing Semin to a five-year deal.

“I’m very happy that Alex has re-signed,” agent Mark Gandler said in a brief telephone interview from Russia. “I think that Alex is going to be an example for how to play this game for many years to come in a Carolina uniform.”

Cooper hired by Lightning

Jon Cooper was a finalist to fill the Caps’ head coaching vacancy last summer when Adam Oates was ultimately hired. The Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday tabbed Cooper to replace Guy Boucher behind the bench.

General manager Steve Yzerman told reporters in Tampa that Cooper’s three years in the organization at the American Hockey League level motivated his decision. Cooper won the Calder Cup with the Norfolk Admirals last season.

“I’ve worked with him closely for three years. I’ve seen the way he coaches, the way he teams play. I know the man,” Yzerman said. “I’ve thought for a long time this guy’s going to be an outstanding coach.”

Cooper won championships at three levels of U.S. junior hockey, including 2002 with the Metro Jets. Caps defenseman Steve Oleksy met Cooper when he drafted him into the North American Hockey League and spent one camp with him and the Jets.

“He relates to players very well and he gets the best out of his players, which is very important as a coach,” Oleksy said. “With relationships like that, I think you can be successful at any level. Very passionate about the game, very knowledgeable about the game, and [he] knows how to relate it to his players, which is very important.”

The Caps will see Cooper’s Lightning twice in short order, April 6 and 13 at Verizon Center.

“There’s no easy game against a team he’s coaching,” Oleksy said.

Fehr out vs. Islanders

Caps right wing Eric Fehr missed Tuesday night’s game against the New York Islanders with an upper-body injury. Oates said it was not a shoulder injury, seemingly good news for a player whose career has been plagued by them.

The team is calling Fehr day-to-day, and Oates said he was hoping Fehr could be back this weekend.

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