Alexander Semin’s first shot at a new beginning did not go very well. The Montreal Canadiens are hoping his second attempt turns out better.
A former 40-goal scorer, Semin is ready to put his tenure with the Carolina Hurricanes behind him as he attempts to resurrect his career with the Canadiens. The 31-year-old signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with Montreal last week after having his contract with Carolina bought out on July 1.
Selected with the 13th overall pick of the 2002 draft by the Washington Capitals, Semin made his NHL debut in 2003-04, recording 10 goals and 12 assists in 52 games. He elected to play in his native Russia during the following season’s lockout instead of reporting to Washington’s American Hockey League affiliate and drew a suspension for the entire campaign from the Capitals, which wound up being moot as 2004-05 was wiped out by the labor dispute.
When the NHL re-opened for business the following season, Semin wasn’t there. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation did not allow him to return to the Capitals due to its mandate that all Russian men serve two years in the military.
Semin was, however, permitted to play a second season in his homeland, which would count as his second year of service. The Capitals tried to get him to return via legal means but were unable to accomplish their goal.
The wait to get Semin back in the fold proved to be worth it, as he registered 38 goals and 73 points over 77 games in 2006-07. He eclipsed the 20-goal plateau in each of the next six seasons following his rookie campaign, setting career highs of 40 tallies and 84 points in 2009-10.
Semin spent two more seasons with Washington, collecting 54 points in each, before inking a one-year contract with the Hurricanes worth $7 million. He averaged a point per game during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, recording 13 goals and 31 assists in 44 contests.
He extended his streak of at least 20 goals during a full 82-game season to seven when he scored 22 in 2013-14. But the native of Krasnojarsk followed up with a campaign to forget, notching only six goals and 19 points in 57 contests.
Semin was widely criticized for his work ethic last season, which ultimately led to his dismissal from the Hurricanes. Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin was willing to take a chance on the veteran right wing.
“He brings something that not a lot of players do have,” Bergevin told reporters. “Obviously, things didn’t go his way in Carolina. He’s going to have a chance to prove he is still the player he once was. He’s still young, only 31 years of age. We hope he will bring his skill and compete level to Montreal.”
It will be interesting to see who coach Michel Therrien puts Semin with. Inserting him on a line with Max Pacioretty, who led the Canadiens with 37 goals and 67 points in 2014-15, could be just what Semin needs to return to form.
Youngsters Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk, who both reached the 20-goal mark last season, also could wind up playing alongside Semin. But no matter what players ultimately become his linemates, the onus will fall on Semin to work hard and regain the fire he once possessed.