- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Any plans the Washington Capitals may have had of quickly inserting right wing Alexander Semin into the lineup appear to have been dashed, at least for the immediate future.

Semin, 21, told Russian newspaper Sports Express that he expected the breakup of his Russian Super League team Lada Togliatti sometime during the league’s transfer period next month. It now appears likely the high-scoring wing will be transferred — sold, loaned, rented, whatever — to another team in the league.

“Where am I going to continue my career? I don’t know,” the newspaper quoted the player as saying. “We are still going to play [for Lada] until November’s transfer period. No one is going to go anywhere. We are still hoping that the situation may resolve itself.”

There have been indications at least three financially stable teams in the league are interested in obtaining Semin’s services.

Semin was drafted 13th overall by the Caps in 2002 and played most of the 2003-04 season in the NHL, scoring 10 goals and 22 points. He did not report to the Caps’ minor league team during the season-long NHL lockout and was suspended, a situation that continues.

He reportedly told Washington club officials during the past summer that he wanted to return to the NHL to join former Lada teammate Dainius Zubrus and one-time opponent Alex Ovechkin. Training camp came and went, the season started and still no Semin.

The latest development in the quirky case came earlier this month with the news that Semin’s team, sponsored by Russia’s largest auto maker, was suddenly in deep financial trouble. According to the report, some officials had already been fired and team payroll would be slashed by 50 percent with the highest-paid players first to go. Semin is Lada’s highest-paid player.

“It’s hard for me to comment [on] what exactly happened and why the sponsors refused to finance the team,” Semin said. “We were told that the current roster will be broken up. This announcement was a complete surprise. No one knew or could predict that this kind of thing could have occurred here in Togliatti.

“I spent two seasons with this team, developing to the national team level. But what can we do? The players are not the ones who make such decisions.”

Last week Caps general manager George McPhee said he had talked to Semin and the player again said he wanted to return to the United States to pursue an NHL career. But the subject of a military obligation remains up in the air (Semin has hinted that problem might go away) and his ability to get out of his Lada contract is not known.

Initially Washington had hoped to put Semin on the right side of the first line with Ovechkin on the left, creating a potent offensive force. Semin might actually be the headline-grabber on such a line because Ovechkin is the playmaker who has the ability and desire to dig the puck out of corners and feed players in scoring position. Semin could have been the beneficiary of such a setup.

The Caps are in South Florida tonight for the first of four games this season at newly renamed BankAmerica Center. They are hoping to beat Hurricane Wilma out of town so they can play host to Carolina on Saturday night.

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