- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Alexander Semin, the skilled Russian wing who basically thumbed his nose at the Washington Capitals the past two seasons, may have no choice but to play for the NHL team — if it still wants him.

Lada Togliatti, Semin’s Russian Super League team, suddenly has run into financial trouble. It fired its general manager and some of its coaches, and the better-paid players are said to be next.

Semin, making the equivalent of $2 million tax free with a car and condo, is the highest paid player on the Lada roster.

“It is likely that the club’s budget will be severely cut and this will … be reflected on the club’s roster,” outgoing GM Sergei Mikhalev said, according to Web site russianprospects.com. The site also said Semin likely will be among the first players cut.

Semin, taken 13th overall by the Caps in 2002, is under contract for two more seasons to the team. He is scheduled to make $900,600 in the NHL this year.

One Caps official would not comment on the situation yesterday. Another said the team was sick of broken promises and wasn’t sure it wanted him back under any circumstances.

It appears Semin has only two scenarios if he is cut by Lada: His rights could be sold to one of the wealthier Russian teams, or he could attempt to return to the NHL. The Caps have suspended him, a move recognized by the International Ice Hockey Federation, which limits his playing options to Russia until the suspension is lifted.

Semin’s story is confusing at best. He played 52 games for the Caps during the 2003-04 season, scoring 10 goals and 22 points as a rookie, and played four games for Portland, Maine, in the American Hockey League after the Caps missed the playoffs. However, he proved hard to coach, didn’t have much interest in playing defense or learning English and missed the team flight for the Caps’ last game of the season with no explanation, forcing the team to play a man short in a 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

He was told to report to Portland the next season but did not, telling the Caps he had been prevented from leaving the country because he needed to fulfill his military obligation, a story the team did not believe. He was suspended by Washington a year ago.

He reportedly told the team he would report to training camp this fall to join Russian superstar Alex Ovechkin, and it was assumed he would be the right wing on the first line. However, one missed deadline was followed by another until the season started without him.

“What news,” Ovechkin was quoted by the Web site as saying when told Semin might be coming back to the NHL. “It’d be cool if [Semin] comes over. I’m sure he would be help for Washington.”

Note — Washington recalled rookie defenseman Mike Green from Hershey. A roster spot opened up because Stephen Peat is out with “an upper body injury,” the club said, though the wing was walking around with a cast on his right hand.

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