Alexander Semin may be one of the biggest free agents available this summer. Enigmatic, no heart, lazy, enigmatic again … but he's also in the prime of his career. Maybe he needs a change in scenery to show his true potential. Or maybe that change comes along with a new Washington Capitals coach who will be able to manage his talent.
On Monday, Semin's agent Mark Gandler told ESPN the forward and the Capitals will part ways. At the time the comments were published, Semin was on a Lufthansa flight to Sweden to join the Russian national team participating in the IIHF Worlds Championships. (Semin and Alex Ovechkin are set to play on the same line with Detroit Red Wings forward Pavel Datsyuk).
But after Semin landed, most of the questions he got from the media were not about the national team, but about his future with Washington. It seemed that Semin was taken aback and was surprised by the questions and only after being told that the report came from his own agent Semin said, via Sovetsky Sport's Pavel Lysenkov (@plysenkov):
"This is all just talk. Words can get twisted. There was no talk at all that I am not going to sign with the Capitals for sure. I have not talked to them [the Capitals] about leaving. And please don't ask me questions about the next season anymore."
I was told the decision by Semin and his agent, made well before the playoffs, wasn't necessarily to test the free agency, but rather to take his time to see how the negotiations between the League and the union go regarding the new CBA. There's always a concern players will agree to another considerable rollback in salaries. Moreover, with the recent changes in Washington with Coach Dale Hunter's departure, it's also wise to wait and see who will be named the head coach of the underachieving team. Or maybe even a new general manager.
Whatever system the Capitals play, someone will need to score goals. Of course, in Hunter's system it was tough to score for anyone, because blocking shots is such a priority that shooting the puck on the opposition net became an afterthought.
The "skill doesn't get you anywhere" philosophy Brooks Laich believes in was interesting to say the least. But replacing that "skill" when it's not there is as tough as it can get. The Capitals should know, because they never replaced Sergei Fedorov as their second line center after letting him go. Replacing Semin, as much as some fans really want him to leave, will most likely be just as tough.
His teammate Alex Ovechkin also doesn't believe Semin will leave:
"I don't know where it was written [about Semin leaving]. Big guys [the media] also make mistakes. We'll see what's going to happen. The season just ended, we were just knocked out of the playoffs. It is too early to say who will or will not be re-signed."
Finally, there was an interesting exchange between Lysenkov and Ovechkin, where the Capitals' captain seemed to have added to the "jealousy" comment he made yesterday voicing his potential displeasure:
Q. Do you have enough strength left for the Worlds?
OVECHKIN: "Of course I have enough left for the Worlds. How can I say this? My ice time, the amount I was getting, wasn't much comparing to previous seasons. Again, whatever time I had I gave it my all. There is enough strength and the emotions left in me."
Are you worried you won't get enough ice time here? Or would you play even 5 minutes as long as the national team wins?
"I am very used to this kind of ice time now. It was way before when I used to play 20-25 minutes. Now I get 10-12."