The Carolina Hurricanes were looking for more offense this off-season and, with the addition of Alexander Semin, they appear to have found it and Jim Rutherford, the team's general manager, seems to have no reservations about the enigmatic sniper.
By Ron Mills
Jim Rutherford has talked about finding more offense, namely a sniper to play alongside Eric Staal.
Special to Hockey Primetime
On Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes and their general manager believe they might have found that sniper in Alexander Semin.
Semin, fifth on the Washington Capitals' all-time list in goals scored, signed a one-year deal worth $7 million with the Hurricanes.
"We have done a lot of research about Alexander, and discussions about his fit with our team have included people at many different levels of our organization, including players, coaches and staff," Rutherford said on Carolina's official website. "What's been clear throughout this process was his commitment to wanting to play in the NHL, and compete against the world's best players.
"Alexander's elite skill level and ability to score from the wing fill an important need on the ice, and we hope that a fresh start in Carolina will serve both Alexander and our team well."
Rutherford knows how effective Semin can be on offense, having scored 27 goals and 45 points in 41 career games against Carolina. Additionally, the Hurricanes weren't able to sign Zach Parise, trade for Rick Nash and the offers for Shane Doan - should he eventually leave the Phoenix Coyotes in the coming weeks - make it likely that Carolina wasn't in his mind.
The signing is another in a busy offseason for the Hurricanes, long a team content with cherry-picking a third- or fourth-tier free agent to go with growing their own players within the organization. Rutherford dealt for Jordan Staal on the first day of the NHL draft in June. But while Staal is a strong two-way center, the Hurricanes might discover that his game will be better suited to centering his own line instead of pairing him with his brother Eric.
Enter Semin, who may find himself on Eric Staal's wing although Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller told The Raleigh News & Observer that he will experiment. The same term was used when Muller was asked about the prospects of the Staal brothers playing on the same line after the trade was completed.
If Semin is teamed with Eric Staal, then that still leaves Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Jussi Jokinen and Tuomo Ruutu as weapons to either stack the top two lines or drop at least one to give the third line some punch and bolster secondary scoring.
But, regardless of the forward combinations, defense is still a major organizational question mark. Muller told the News & Observer that he wants Semin to be a "complete player." Tim Gleason was signed to a new four-year contract during last season, and Jay Harrison was rewarded for his hard work with a new three-year extension just a few days ago. But those two defensemen and the rest of the blueliners need more help from the forwards to take some of the pressure off goaltender Cam Ward. After leading the NHL with 2,191 saves in the 2010-11 season, Ward faced 2,143 shots last season, second most in the league - the Nashville Predators' Pekka Rinne faced only 10 more shots in five more games played.
That, in part, boomerangs back to Semin, whose offensive skills aren't questioned but whose commitment has been. The fact that he averaged a career-low 16:47 in ice time last season in Washington, was not trusted to be part of the penalty kill and a change in organizational direction contributed to the split with the Capitals.
Semin's agent Mark Gandler has said the winger desires to play on special teams which meshes with the Hurricanes' focus on improvement in that department. Carolina tied for 18th on the power play and 22nd on the penalty kill last season. Additionally, the Hurricanes were just 4-16 in overtime and 1-6 in the shootout.
Semin has 408 points, including 197 goals, in 469 regular-season games, all with the Caps. His best season was in 2009-10, when he tallied 40 goals and 84 points in 73 regular-season games. He had 25 or more goals in six of his seven seasons with Washington, but slipped to 21 last year.
The Florida Panthers avoided arbitration with right wing Kris Versteeg, as the two sides agreed on Monday to a four-year contract. worth $4.4 million per season. Versteeg set career highs with 23 goals and 54 points last year skating with Stephen Weiss and Tomas Fleishmann on Florida's top line. ... The Winnipeg Jets agreed to extend their arrangement with their AHL affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps, through the 2014-15 season. ... The Washington Capitals named Tim Hunter an assistant coach under new head coach Adam Oates. Hunter, 51, had been an assistant under Ron Wilson during each of his 13 previous seasons behind the bench, including a stint in Washington from 1997-2002. ... The Tampa Bay Lightning is preparing for its 20th season by launching a website, which will be fully integrated with Facebook.