Islanders Would Ya': Alexander Semin, Unrestricted Free Agent?

Gold in them thar wrist shots?

The offseason focus for most New York Islanders fans (and arguably the GM) appears to be upgrading the blueline. But what say you to additions up front -- particularly if P.A. Parenteau is not re-signed?

Not surprisingly, it appears the Washington Capitals and Alexander Semin will at last be breaking up. After years bridging his RFA and UFA years with one-year trial dates while other Caps stars received DiPietro-length deals, Semin is ready to seek NHL work elsewhere, targeting a bigger role.

That's from his agent Mark Gandler, whom you'll recognize as the public muse behind the annual "Islanders talking to Yashin" reports which are due to resurface in, oh, about two months now. Gandler says "it's the organization, not the coach" and points to Semin's desire to play PK and last-minute, important type of minutes. It seems a mutual decision.

"Since you're aware of the consequences
I can pimp what's left of this wreck on you
Bit into a rotten one now didn't you?
I can watch you chew."

-"Now You Know," from Afghan Whigs (and the best dysfunctional relationship album man has conceived)

If Semin is ready for the kind of smart evolution in his game that Ilya Kovalchuk has undergone thanks, in part, to the influence of Jacques "This Way to the Defensive Zone!" Lemaire, then Semin's next team could be getting a gem of a guy after some other poor woman had to go through the growing pains and disappointments to round Semin into marriageable material.

If Semin remains an inconsistent enigma, however -- not just the easy stereotype tossed at Russian players, but continuing the truly enigmatic ups and downs that marked his low points in Washington -- then he'll be the same as he ever was: An outstanding talent from whom his team always expects more.

There are signs he has evolved and indeed precocious talents can evolve as they get older, mature further, see Father Time kicking at their Bossy-given talents, and get a perspective on the profession that their talent had previously hid from them.

The whole "playoff choke" label was never quite right -- he had a point per game or better in 2008 and 2009 and generated anywhere between three (2009) and a ridiculous six (2010) shots per game in the postseason. Forgive him for Jaroslav Halak having the spring of his life.

Production has dipped both in the regular season and the playoffs the past two years, however, and his ice time dropped to 16:47 in 2011-12, his lowest since his rookie year. He still had a healthy 2:31 per game on the powerplay. While he may have been bridging one-year, $6 million-plus contracts in hopes of a big UFA payday, at this point his asking price has to be less.

Still, that wrist shot from distance is a rare threat -- particularly for the Isles -- even if NHL defenses are trending toward blocking the lanes through which it travels.

Anyway, the point for our purposes is whether you think the 28-year-old left wing is worth flirting with. Perhaps in a short-term, "We'll give you opportunity, you make the most of it and earn a fat longer contract from someone" kind of arrangement? If the salary cap really goes up to $69 million, then the Isles would have around $14 million to play with just to get to the resulting $53 million floor. Bonus cushions will get you part of the way there, but there will need to be some money tossed in as the cap floor shoots way past double what it was in 2006.

The Islanders have Matt Moulson and Michael Grabner at left wing, but Semin would add a completely different kind of wing to the mix (if not exactly replace Parenteau if Parenteau walks). If they offered him responsible additional minutes and he actually ran with them, well, bonus.

The reason for even mulling it from my perspective is:

  1. Adding more good players is always a goal.
  2. If the cap is going up, might as well use the forced spending on something shiny.
  3. Semin has something to prove, and the Island is one of opportunity for such players.
  4. Rather than count on young players to step up, you through a genuine NHL talent into the mix to push others and, if he slacks, to give those youngsters a target to overcome.

The downside is you could drop some serious coin on a disappointment. But one or two years of overpayment for Semin is surely more rewarding than $5 million-plus on Brian Rolston.

So if you're Garth Snow ... would ya kick those tires?

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