- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Alexander Semin, the skilled Russian left wing who chose not to play in the Capitals’ system last season, will arrive in Washington sometime next week and will be on hand for the start of training camp Sept. 13.

Sources close to the player said he will not compete for the Russian national team this week in a tournament in the Czech Republic and instead will prepare to leave for the United States, possibly as early as Monday.

“Last year the NHL had a lockout, and Semin found it convenient not to be able to leave the country,” a Canadian-based agent said yesterday. “Suddenly the barriers that were there last season aren’t there any more. I’m not surprised.”

Semin, drafted by the Caps 13th overall in 2002, was told to report to Portland, Maine, in the American Hockey League last September. The Caps wanted him there to establish a bond with other young players and to learn English, which the player maintains he cannot understand.

Instead, Semin claimed he stopped attempting to leave Russia so he could serve his military commitment, but he found time to play 50 games for Lada Togliatti in the Russian Super League. He led the team with 19 goals, the fifth most in the defense-oriented league. The Caps suspended him, a sentence the Russians did not honor.

Caps general manager George McPhee, who said he did not know of Semin’s purported travel plans, said the suspension was something the team would deal with if he showed up.

Semin is an artistic player, an excellent skater and a passer with creative scoring abilities, but his performance is limited to one end of the rink. He is a defensive liability and has a reputation for being hard to coach.

He also can be unreliable. He played 52 games for Washington in 2003-04 and would have played another, but he missed the team plane for the final game of the season April 4 in Pittsburgh, a 4-3 Washington loss. His reason for missing the flight never has been fully explained.

The Caps also said yesterday they would conduct a press conference tomorrow at MCI Center to introduce Alexander Ovechkin. Ovechkin was taken first overall in the 2004 draft, and Semin could well be on his line with Dainius Zubrus, another Super League refugee, at center.

Washington yesterday also announced dates for its training camp next month at Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Md. There will be three on-ice workouts daily starting at 9 a.m., and all are open to the public.

The team also said it would spend three days — Sept. 25-27 — training at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa., home of the club’s new affiliate, the Hershey Bears. Those workouts also are open to the public, but the times have not been finalized.

Washington will play Pittsburgh in an exhibition game at 5 p.m. on Sept. 25 at Giant Center.

Notes: — Washington yesterday announced the signing of veteran defenseman Bryan Muir, 32, to a one-year contract. He played in Sweden and Finland last season. … The Caps denied a report in yesterday’s Times that said the club paid a $1 million development fee to Ovechkin’s former Russian team. The player was a free agent, the team said, and therefore no transfer fee was necessary.

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