The Carolina Hurricanes surprised many people in the hockey community on Monday by re-signing star winger Alexander Semin to a massive five-year, $35 million contract.
TSN's Aaron Ward was the first to report the news.
After a lackluster 2011-12 season with the Washington Capitals, there didn't seem to be much interest in Semin in free agency last summer despite his extraordinary offensive skill set. Concerns about his effort level, inconsistent scoring, work ethic and defensive play may have caused his free-agent stock to drop.
Semin decided to take a one-year deal with the Hurricanes for $7 million and has become a dedicated player with a strong work ethic. Now he must prove that his performance and effort this season in Carolina will be consistent for the duration of his new contract.
Some fans worry that Semin's motivation to perform at an elite level will lessen now that he's been given a long-term contract and $35 million, and it's a fair concern given his history.
To his credit, Semin has been productive offensively with 30 points (eight goals, 22 assists) in 30 games this season, while also ranking second on the team with a plus/minus rating of 18. He looks like a rejuvenated player in Carolina and has fit in very well on the team's top line alongside Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty.
He's also making Staal a more productive player, as TSN points out:
The 29-year-old winger is the latest star to receive a big contract during the 2013 season. Anaheim Ducks forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have both signed eight-year deals worth over $60 million this month, and at the beginning of the season, top-six center Travis Zajac re-signed with the New Jersey Devils for $46 million over eight seasons.
As the second top-line winger to sign a large, long-term contract under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), Semin's deal will have a tremendous impact on other star wingers who will be eligible for free agency this season and over the next few years.
With a $7 million AAV in his new contract, Semin will have the eighth-highest salary cap hit among wingers in the 2013-14 season, which is more than the cap hits of other top forwards such as Phil Kessel, Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrick Kane and Henrik and Daniel Sedin.
Semin is a good player, but he's not worth $7 million per season. Carolina overpaid by about $1-2 million per year to re-sign him.
For the following players, Semin's contract, specifically his $7 million AAV, will benefit them in contract negotiations.
- Phil Kessel (TOR): As one of the elite forwards in the NHL, Kessel could be the top winger available in the 2014 UFA class. He has scored 30-plus goals in four straight seasons and Semin's contract will likely be the starting point in his future contract negotiations.
- Patrick Kane (CHI): The Blackhawks winger is one of the leading Hart Trophy candidates in 2013 with 39 points in 31 games. He is the total package offensively and is also becoming a good two-way player. Kane is arguably the best young winger in the NHL and his contract expires in the summer of 2015. Since Semin is making $7 million per season, expect Kane to make no less than $7.5 million per year in his next deal.
- Valtteri Filppula (DET): As a skilled winger with a strong defensive game, Filppula will likely have several teams interested in him if he tests the free-agent market this summer. He's a top-six forward, and even though he's not going to make as much as Semin, he should earn at least $5 million per year as a UFA. Semin's contract will definitely benefit the Red Wings star.
- Chris Stewart (STL): As a true power forward who is capable of scoring 25 to 35 goals in a normal 82-game season, Chris Stewart will receive a large raise in the offseason.
- Nathan Horton (BOS): Semin's signing will make Horton one of the most coveted wingers in a 2013 UFA class that is not very deep. The Bruins power forward has six 20-plus goal seasons and an impressive performance in Boston's 2011 Stanley Cup playoff run on his resume.
Top-line wingers with 30-goal potential will now demand close to or above $7 million now that Semin is receiving this kind of salary. The Hurricanes forward has enormous offensive talent, great speed and underrated defensive skills, but he has been inconsistent throughout his NHL career.
His single-season goal totals have gone up or down by six goals five times, and after scoring a career-high 40 goals during the 2009-10 season, Semin has scored 28 and 21 goals over the last two seasons, respectively.
Regardless of how streaky goal scorers can be, these types of players are going to make a lot of money as free agents under the new CBA because so many teams don't have enough scoring depth. Teams will overpay when adding pure goal scorers like Semin, and now the market for these elite players has been set at $7 million.
Semin's contract will improve the chances of top-tier wingers earning a high salary as free agents over the next few years because a lot of these players are more consistent, more productive and impact the game in more ways than the Hurricanes forward.
For players who are capable of putting the puck in the net 30 to 40 times per season, such as Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane, Semin's contract is fantastic news.
The new CBA might have lowered the total amount of money that teams will have to spend on players (the salary cap drops to $64.3 million in 2013-14), but one thing that hasn't changed is the fact that the top players will still receive huge salaries.
Since Semin and Perry both received contract extensions with an AAV of at least $7 million as the first elite wingers to re-sign under the terms of the new CBA, we can expect similar players to receive this amount or more when they reach free agency or re-sign with their current teams.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston.