- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Washington Capitals agreed to take back Alexander Semin, who has had some problems following instructions in the past, after the multitalented left wing again told the team he wants to return.

The Caps announced yesterday the wing would be back in a Washington uniform in time for training camp after signing a restructured two-year deal.

“I haven’t talked to him personally, but he said he’s coming back,” general manager George McPhee said. “He signed a new deal.”

Semin’s old contract called for him to make $900,600 this season with a slight raise for the second year, but the contract was loaded with incentive clauses. The new deal, McPhee said, contains no bonuses but will pay the 22-year-old $1.3 million a season.

“We were able to restructure the deal, making it more team friendly, more cost friendly than the old deal,” the general manager said. “The new deal is strictly salary. The bonuses are eliminated.”

Semin last appeared in a Caps uniform April 3, 2004. He was to have played the next day in the season finale in Pittsburgh but did not show up for the team plane and also missed a commercial flight to bring him to the game. Washington played a man short and lost.

What followed would make a good plot for a mystery book. Semin was ordered to report to the Caps’ farm team in Portland, Maine, the following September at the start of the season-long NHL lockout. Semin refused, saying he had been prevented from leaving his native Russia because of an unfilled military commitment, a story nobody bought. He was suspended by the Caps and fined $1,000 a day. McPhee acknowledged yesterday the fine has been waived.

Semin, picked 13th overall in the 2002 draft, reportedly continued to tell team officials he wanted to come back but could not; at one point last fall he reportedly was prevented from leaving Russia because a photo in a piece of his identification was the wrong size. The Caps had his suspension extended by the International Ice Hockey Federation, banning him from playing anywhere but Russia, which refused to honor the suspension.

Washington filed a suit against the player and his agent, seeking an injunction to bar Semin from playing in Russia, but a judge tossed the suit, saying arbitration was the proper method to settle the case.

Semin even had problems at home. He started last season reportedly making the U.S. equivalent of $2 million plus a car and condo playing for Lada Togliatti in the Russian Super League. But Lada ran out of money, and his contract was transferred to Mytishi Khimik, a city not far from Moscow. There his production dropped dramatically, as did his salary.

Semin played 52 games for the Caps in 2003-04 with 10 goals and 22 points, but there were problems. He overextended shifts, played out of position, had no hint what the word defense meant and made no effort to learn English.

His best season with Lada was 2004-05, when he had 19 goals and 30 points in 50 games. His combined totals last season in 42 games were just eight goals and 19 points.

The prospect of adding Semin to the mix that includes Alex Ovechkin and Dainius Zubrus has long been appealing. Semin is fast and a talented offensive player, but he is also a left wing, Ovechkin’s position. Whether one of them could switch sides was not even being discussed yesterday.

“I think it’s premature to try to determine who he’s going to play with,” McPhee said. “He’s a real talented player with some bite to his game who will fit in real nicely with this team.”

Ovechkin, meanwhile, is basking in the limelight of scoring his 49th goal of the season Monday night in Boston while becoming just the sixth player in NHL history to earn 100 points in his rookie season. He has four games left to improve on those figures.

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