Alexander Semin v. the Lockout: Take Two?

Posted July 18, 2012

Alexander Semin, On the Fence (Photo Credit: Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE)

With all of the chatter about Alex Semin being an UFA this late into July, there’s one topic that everyone has been shying away from: that obnoxious elephant in the room, the expiring CBA.  Semin has stated repeatedly that his first choice of league to play in would be the NHL.  But if there is no NHL, where will he go?  Just as important, could a lockout bring his past back to haunt him?

Many Capitals fans will remember the controversy during the last lockout, when Semin went back to Russia in order to fulfill a two-year military obligation.  There were some differences of opinion about the validity of that obligation, which led to the Capitals organization taking legal action to try and bring him back to North America once the NHL resumed play.  The whole situation left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.  The team wasn’t happy with having to wait an extra year to get Semin back, and fans and media soon labeled him as a problem child and flight risk.  These labels – as well as many others typically applied to Russian import players (enigmatic, lazy, selfish) – have stuck with him throughout his career in Washington.  It’s likely that he’s hoping for a fresh start with his new contract, whether with the Capitals or elsewhere in the NHL.

So what does this have to do with Semin’s current unsigned status?  Maybe nothing, maybe everything.  If there is a lockout this fall, depending on the expected length, Semin is likely to wait it out back in Russia. However, if he signs with a KHL team while already under contract with an NHL team, a mid-season CBA dispute resolution could cause history to repeat itself.

In order to avoid that, isn’t it possible that Semin is waiting to get a feel for any progress/lack-thereof coming from the CBA talks before he decides on plans for his future?  Information on Semin’s current offers has been remarkably sparse, but Detroit or New Jersey could be likely destinations based on mutual benefit (the Penguins are also rumoured to be among the top teams, and have openly offered him a contract already, but I’ve been informed that we don’t talk about that here on Caps Outsider).  In the KHL, Sergei Fedorov’s CSKA Moscow has been in talks with Semin, but admits there isn’t much progress either way.

What all of this leads up to is that while the interest certainly exists, and money or term might well be an issue with regards to Semin’s contract status, the pending CBA expiration might weigh just as heavily on his current decision (or non-decision).  When he signed a one-year extension with the Capitals in 2011, the need for a new CBA was referenced as one of the reasons he opted for a single year deal rather than more substantial length.  Perhaps our dear Sasha Semin is just doing the responsible thing this time around, and making a conscious effort to consider the PR consequences of his actions before he does anything he can’t take back.