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Semin signing has little downside for Canadiens
25 июля 2015 года. Hickey, Pat. Montreal Gazette

It will be six or seven months before we know whether Marc Bergevin hit a home run with the signing of free-agent right-winger Alexander Semin, but at first glance, we'll give the Canadiens' general manager credit for at least a ground-rule double.

The Canadiens announced Friday that Semin has agreed to a one-year deal worth $1.1 million.

That's a reasonable price for a player who was bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes after the worst season of his NHL career.

It's an absolute steal if Semin can regain his form as an elite goal scorer.

By his own admission, Semin is coming offa bad season in Carolina with six goals and 13 assists in 57 games. But it should be noted that it was the first time since his debut with Washington in 2003-04 that the Russian failed to score at least 20 goals in a full NHL season.

During a conference call Friday, Semin offered no excuses for his poor performance and had no explanation for it - other than the fact that he had wrist surgery last summer. He said he was coming to Montreal "to score goals and win games."

As he and agent Mark Gandler pondered what was probably a limited number of options, Semin said he was encouraged by a conversation with Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov, who urged Semin to come to Montreal and help the team win the Stanley Cup.

The Markov connection could prove valuable because Semin's command of English is basic. He was the only Russian player in Carolina and he should feel more comfortable in Montreal where Markov, Alexei Emelin and Alex Galchenyuk speak Russian. Markov's presence should also ease any fears that Semin will be a distraction in the room.

At his best, Semin, 31, is capable of being a major contributor to a team that has trouble scoring goals. He had a career-high 40 goals with Washington in 2009-10, has topped 30 goals on two other occasions and has a total of seven seasons with 20 or more goals.

While last season was a writeoff, he had some productive times on a bad Carolina team. He had 13 goals and 44 points in the lockout-abbreviated 44-game season in 2012-13. That prompted the Hurricanes to give him a five-year, $35-million contract. He had 22 goals and 20 assists in 65 games two years ago despite losing time because of a concussion and the wrist injury.

In addition to being a right winger, he adds some needed size at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds.

When he bought out the final three years of Semin's contract, Carolina general manager Ron Francis expressed concerns about Semin's competition level and that could pose a problem with coach Michel Therrien, who likes competitors.

But there's good reason to believe that Semin will be motivated in his new home.

When asked whether he considered a move to the Russia-based KHL, Semin told reporters he was too young and his family wants to remain in North America.

The fact he was still available on the free-agent market on July 24 is an indication this is Semin's last chance to prove he belongs in the NHL. That reality is reinforced by the fact that Semin has been asked to prove himself with a one-year deal.

There is little downside to the deal. Bergevin still has nearly $6.3 million in cap space and that will leave him with some extra cash after he signs Galchenyuk.

Semin will push Zach Kassian to work hard for a spot among the top-six forwards and will also allow rookies Nikita Scherbak and Michael McCarron time to develop in the American Hockey League. Note: The Habs also agreed to a three-year entry-level contract with Daniel Audette on Friday. The 19-year old forward was selected in the fifth round, 147th overall, by the Canadiens at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. 

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