- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

RALEIGH, N.C. — The Washington Capitals confirmed yesterday that talks are under way in the hopes of bringing star Russian wing Alexander Semin to the United States.

General manager George McPhee said, however, there were no estimates on how long it would be before the player would be able to leave Russia. Apparently issues exist between the player and his country’s military over whether he has completed his mandatory two years of service.

McPhee said he had talked to Semin on Tuesday and was convinced that the 21-year-old wing wanted to report to the Caps, who drafted him 13th overall in 2002.

“We talked to Alex [on Tuesday] and he said ‘It would be my pleasure to return.’ ” McPhee said. “We told him we would be excited to have him back, but there still seems to be some issue with the military that we don’t understand.”

Forward Dainius Zubrus, who played with Semin last season with Lada Togliatta in the Russian Super League, said he spoke to Semin yesterday and believes now more than ever that his former teammate wants to return to Washington.

“He wants to come over as soon as that military thing is taken care of,” Zubrus said. “He said he wants to come over and I believe him. Before when I talked to him it was never a sure thing when I asked him if he wanted to come [back] here, but now I believe him more than I ever did. I think it’s only paperwork that needs to be cleared up.”

However, getting a free pass from the Russian military with possibly a year to go on his obligation is something that will not come just for the asking.

Lada, the leading passenger car manufacturer in Russia, has come under severe financial trouble. Its general manager and some of the coaching staff have been fired and reportedly the better paid players will be next to go. Semin is the best-paid player on the team at the equivalent of $2 million tax free plus a car and condominium.

“Supposedly some people from Moscow came in and bought Lada and cut back the sponsoring of hockey and other sports,” Zubrus said. “The budget is much smaller, much tighter. If I’m not mistaken, 11 players will be going somewhere else to play.”

Semin came to Washington to play in 2003-04 and had 10 goals and 22 points in his rookie campaign. He appeared to be less than enthusiastic about playing defense and learning English. Also, he refused to report to Portland, Maine, in the minor leagues last season, causing the Caps to suspend him. That suspension remains in effect.

Despite leaving for Russia under less than cordial terms, Caps officials yesterday were willing to overlook much of whatever negative events have happened in the past.

“He definitely has an edge about him, has a little bite to his game,” one official said. “When he was here before you have to remember he was 19, in a new league, in a new country. There were a lot of things foreign to him, including the language.”

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