Alex Semin has been subject to a very thorough character assassination. For quite some time now, the Russian sniper has been the poster child for "The problem with Russians", as seen by those in the NHL hockey media that have a problem with Russians.
His work ethic has been questioned. His will has been questioned. Even his desire to play in the NHL has questioned. And it's freaking the buyers out.
Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford put the anxiety surrounding Semin into words last week, admitting his team would only look at Semin on a short-term basis.
"We wouldn't want to get locked in to anything," Rutherford said, "Because we've all heard the stories about him. We do like his skill level. It could be that we could bring him in for a year, get to know him and go from there in terms of considering something longer term."
Now, as long as Semin doesn't speak enough English to defend himself in the language or, at the very least, stop being seen as the other, he's going to be somewhat maligned. But, eight days into free agency, I'd say the silence is speaking in his favour. I think it might be time to rethink the whole "he doesn't want to be here" angle.
After all, if Semin doesn't care about playing in the NHL, then how come he hasn't signed with the KHL yet? It's not like he hasn't been offered a contract.
If Slava Malamud, a Foreign Correspondent for Sport-Express, Russia's sports daily and an NHL.com contributor, is to be believed, CSKA has submitted a pretty huge standing offer to lure him back home. According to Malamud, "There are unconfirmed reports that CSKA's offer to Semin stands at 3 years, $30 million."
Now, again, these are just rumours, but even if the numbers aren't quite that high, it's a safe bet that Semin is being offered more to play in the KHL than he's going to get in the NHL.
It's possible that he's waiting to see if anyone in the NHL will come up with an offer even close to the one above (in which case, he's dreaming), but if Semin doesn't want to be here, why is he waiting on a North American team to make a comparable offer at all?
By way of contrast, Alex Radulov's agent announced that he was KHL-bound back on June 18.
It seems to me that Semin's waiting for the right NHL deal, which strikes me as the sort of thing a player who wants to play in the NHL would do. But that's just me.
Semin will get his deal eventually, especially with the number of teams out there with little to show for this offseason. He's effectively the last flashy guy on the market. Even if all 30 teams balk at his skill because of character fears, you have to think, in the end, some General Manager will sign him just to do something.
The contract will inevitably be for decent money, too, but there's no way it's going to be what the KHL is reportedly offering, and that's noteworthy. If Semin stays in North America and leaves money -- potentially a lot of it -- on the table to do so, I think we need to stop speculating on whether or not he wants to be here.
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