2012 NHL Offseason: Pittsburgh Penguins Would Be Wise to Avoid Alexander Semin

Ryan TactacContributor IIIJuly 9, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 22:  Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals looks on against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the game at Consol Energy Center on January 22, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

As a result of Ray Shero’s recent moves and the failure to sign either Zach Parise or Ryan Suter, the Pittsburgh Penguins are left with a vacancy in the top six forward grouping and approximately $10.5 million dollars in cap space, according to CapGeek.  The Pens have tended to spend near the cap ceiling in recent years, and I do not expect them to break that trend this season.  

In order to move closer to the cap ceiling, the Pens are believed by many to be in the market for a highly talented winger to play on a line with Sidney Crosby.

The top forward currently available on the free-agent market is former Washington Capital Alexander Semin.  According to Josh Yohe, a Penguins beat writer for the Tribune-Review, Alexander Semin's agent said, "No question, [Alexander Semin believes] playing in Pittsburgh would be great. Alex would love to play with either Malkin or Crosby." 

Also, Semin is not looking for a short-term deal this time around.  At 28, he is entering his prime and must want a huge deal to maximize financially.  It certainly appears as if Semin wants to come to the Steel City, and the Penguins have the cap space to sign him. But they must resist the urge to sign the dynamic winger.

As I mentioned earlier, Semin must be looking for a large contract.  Last season, he made $6.7 million, and he surely will be looking for a raise.  Alexander Semin will probably be expecting a deal similar to the deal Zach Parise recently signed, because they are similar in many statistical categories, stature and are both 28 years of age.  Parise is a better player defensively than Semin, who has been labeled as being lazy and dispassionate by many in the NHL community; however, Semin has performed better than Parise offensively in his career. 

Semin has averaged 0.870 points per game, while Parise has averaged 0.817 points per game.  Rather than pay Semin around $7.5 million over the next seven to 10 years, the Penguins should consider trading for Bobby Ryan, who is on the rise, wants out of Anaheim, may be going to rival Philadelphia and still has three years left on his contract.  They also might want to trade for the highly talented Rick Nash, who has included the Pens on his list of teams he would like to get traded to, and is already signed long-term, if the asking price is not too high.

The Penguins must be wary of signing Semin long-term, as he has been an injury-prone player.  Seven seasons into his NHL career and Semin has yet to appear in over 77 games in a season.  He averages a mediocre 67 games played per season, even though he does not play a physical brand of hockey.  With the Pens taking a long-term gamble on Sidney Crosby, I would find it foolish to take another long-term gamble on a player with injury problems.

Semin is a great scorer; he has tallied 408 points in 469 games. However, he has demonstrated that he cannot flourish in a defensively-minded system, similar to the one the Penguins play. 

During the 2010-11 season, then Capital’s coach Bruce Boudreau implemented a defensively-minded system in stark contrast to the high-flying offensive system they had used since he began coaching Washington in 2007.

Consequently, Semin’s production dropped significantly. 

Under Boudreau’s offensively-minded system, Semin averaged 33.3 goals and 68.3 points per season. While under the defensively-minded system, he averaged 24.5 goals per season and 54 points per season. Furthermore, Semin averaged less games per season during the offensively-minded seasons than the seasons when the defensive system was implemented, yet produced more offensively during those offensively-minded seasons. 

He has established himself as a scoring threat in this league, but his lethality as a scorer drops considerably when he has to be responsible defensively, a given for a player under Dan Bylsma.

Alexander Semin is an enticing addition to the Penguins 2012-13 roster, but they must not succumb to his appeal and sign him long-term.  I would not mind if they signed him for one or two years, as Kevin McCauley suggests the Penguins consider doing. But anything long-term is out of the question.  

The risk simply is not worth the reward.  

The Penguins must not act impulsively but rather act patiently and make the perfect move that will surely help bring home Lord Stanley’s fabled Cup to the Steel City, yet again.

Have any questions or comments?  Please post them in the comment section below or contact me via Twitter @ryan_tactac.