By Allan Muir
The ink wasn't yet dry on Alexander Semin's brand new five-year, $35 million contract extension with the Hurricanes before social media lit up with snarky comments about the dangerously short memory of Carolina's general manager, Jim Rutherford.
Sure, the flashy winger has been sensational through the first 30 games of his stint in Raleigh, many said, but this is the same player who forced the Capitals to cut him loose after his final two frustrating seasons in Washington.
Are the Hurricanes taking a risk with this deal? No doubt. But before you suggest that owner Peter Karmanos might want to hide the checkbook before Rutherford does another crazy thing with his money, let me introduce you to these 13 players:
I say "introduce" because unless you closely follow the AHL Charlotte Checkers, you've probably never heard of any of these wingers that Rutherford drafted between 2005 and 2011.
It's understandable. Between them, they've accrued a grand total of 101 NHL games and 11 NHL goals, and 98 of those appearances and 10 of the goals belong to Bowman, a spare part who has spent stretches of each of the last four seasons with the big club, but has yet to show the offensive flair or two-way moxie to stick. Chris Terry accounts for the rest. The others never got a sniff.
Go back even further, and you'll see Rutherford has drafted just two wingers in the Carolina era, Andrew Ladd (fourth overall, 2004) and Erik Cole (71st, 1998) who have matured into NHL regulars.
The point being, if you can't draft them, you have to find them somewhere. And once you do, you'd better hold on.
When no one else would take a chance on Semin, the Canes gambled that they could break him of the pony-set work ethic that dogged his final two seasons in Washington. The bet has paid off so far, and Semin has been full value for the one-year, $7 million deal he signed in the off-season. He leads the Hurricanes in assists (22) and his 30 points in 30 games and plus-18 rating are tied for second.
More important, he's been a 200-foot player. "He's been outstanding at both ends of the ice," coach Kirk Muller said. "He's fully committed to the system."
It's that commitment that convinced Rutherford that Semin was doing more than simply chasing the next paycheck.
With no real options in the pipeline (we'll say the jury is still out on 2012 second-rounders Phil Di Giuseppe and Brock McGinn) locking Semin up was really the only option Rutherford had.
Is the money a little generous? Sure, but Semin wasn't going to take a cut to stick around, considering the season he's having. Keeping the dollar value stable was a win for the Canes and the term was a win for Semin. It's a deal that makes sense for both sides. Now it's up to Semin to prove that his old vanishing acts are things of the past.