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Insider

New stats guide Alexander Semin signing

7/27/2012

You don't spend $7 million on a player without doing some research. For Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, the research of Alexander Semin got serious at the NHL draft in Pittsburgh.

Rutherford had an extended conversation with former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau about Semin and continued to have similar discussions about the talented but sometimes underperforming winger with scouts, former teammates and coaches.

"We did a lot of work on this," Rutherford said. "We talked to as many people as we could who have crossed paths with Alex. We had more on the positive side than on the negative."

While Rutherford and guys such as Rod Brind'Amour were working their hockey contacts for information on Semin, assistant general manager Jason Karmanos worked the numbers. Semin has a reputation of disappearing during high-pressure situations and hasn't always been productive during the playoffs. But the advanced stats suggested otherwise.

"What the people out there who are not fans of Alex are saying are not confirmed by the analytics," Rutherford said. "Actually, it's absolutely the opposite."

The area that stood out the most?

"High-pressure situations," Rutherford said. "That's the biggest one for a player like this. When the game is on the line, certain times in the game, who he ends up playing against -- all those numbers are very high for him."

Carolina alleviated some risk by signing Semin to a one-year deal, but Rutherford is more than willing to make this a long-term relationship if Semin produces for the Hurricanes.

The final item on Rutherford's wish list is a fourth-line forward to add grit and protection for Carolina's star forwards, but there's no rush to do that. That's a move that could wait until training camp. Rutherford has had preliminary conversations with Jeff Skinner's camp about a long-term deal. Skinner has one year left on his contract and is slated to be a restricted free agent next summer.

"We'll just see how it goes," Rutherford said. "Sometimes these things can come together pretty quick. Sometimes they take extra time."

Even without those moves, it has been a remarkable offseason for the Hurricanes. In one of the thinnest free-agent markets in years, Carolina exceeded its hopes of adding one top-six forward. It aggressively pursued and landed Jordan Staal and took a calculated risk on Semin. Meanwhile, big market teams with major needs such as Philadelphia, Detroit and Toronto haven't been successful in adding any significant pieces this summer.

The dramatic improvement of the Hurricanes makes things interesting in an already murky Southeast Division.

It's not a reach to say Carolina becomes the favorite, with a skilled young defense, an experienced goalie and a top six that includes the Staals, Semin and Skinner. The division is there for the taking, and Carolina is trying to do exactly that.

Washington: The Capitals added Mike Ribeiro in a trade, which shores up the long vacant No. 2 center position but doesn't answer the question of who will score on this team outside of Alex Ovechkin. There's no risk in adding Wojtek Wolski for $600,000 but no guarantee of production either. Losing Dennis Wideman and Semin hurts a power play that was already underwhelming (16.7 percent last season).

Florida: The Panthers lost Jason Garrison, who was fantastic as Brian Campbell's partner, and replaced him with Filip Kuba. That's a downgrade. Any growth this season in South Florida will come from the maturation of the young players in a system loaded with emerging talent. The wild card is if GM Dale Tallon adds Roberto Luongo, which would all but lock up a playoff spot.

Winnipeg: The Jets added Olli Jokinen for a surprisingly reasonable two-year deal considering the lack of centers on the open market. That addition alone won't close the 10-point gap that separated the Jets from the division-winning Panthers last season. The Jets are entering only the second season of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff's long-term plan to build with young talent. He signed goalie Ondrej Pavelec to a five-year deal in June and, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, has a six-year offer on the table for Evander Kane.

Tampa Bay: The Lightning finished the season with a troubling minus-46 goal differential, the worst in a division in which every team finished in the negative. GM Steve Yzerman addressed his defense in the offseason with the signing of Matt Carle and Sami Salo. Tampa has the division's highest payroll and is outspending teams like the Blackhawks, Kings, Red Wings, Penguins, Maple Leafs and Rangers, according to CapGeek.com. Carle and Salo, who will combine to make $9 million this season, will help the defense, but the biggest difference-maker will have to be goalie Anders Lindback, acquired in a trade with Nashville. Carle met with the media Friday morning and pointed out that this team has many of the key components from the one that reached the Eastern Conference finals. Lindback will be the key. "I played against Lindback before," Carle said. "It's hard to tell the difference between him and [Pekka] Rinne."

Decisions in the desert

It's a move that says as much about the future of the Phoenix Coyotes as it does Shane Doan. Doan's agent Terry Bross confirmed in an email that today is the deadline for Doan to make a decision regarding his future in Phoenix.

Deadlines have come and gone on multiple fronts regarding the Coyotes, but Doan's decision is a barometer regarding the future of the franchise. He wants to stay in Phoenix, especially considering that he has pushed this decision nearly into August. But at some point, a choice has to be made. The teams pursuing him, and there are plenty, need an answer.

According to the Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan, Doan and potential Coyotes owner Greg Jamison are expected to have a phone conversation today that will update Doan on the sale of the team and shape his decision. If he stays, that's a strong indication the team is staying as well. If he doesn't, it's suggests otherwise. McLellan reports that Doan has already visited with the Rangers and Flyers and that a trip to Montreal is on the itinerary. The Canucks are another team in the running to land Doan, although it's likely he can make more money playing in the East.

TSN's Aaron Ward reported that the Red Wings are out of the mix because Doan's asking price is too high. A frustrating offseason for Detroit fans continues.

But the frustration level can't be anything close to that reached by Coyotes fans. Any momentum Phoenix achieved from its run to the Western Conference finals has been sapped by an offseason that could result in the exodus of the team's devoted captain and eventually the team itself.

Unlike the situation with the Atlanta Thrashers last season, there isn't a turnkey solution completely ready to accept the Coyotes into their city, which means the league could be stuck running the Coyotes for another season. Quebec City may be the closest, but many believe that the league prefers Seattle as the destination.

That dream got a small bump toward reality Thursday when the Seattle Times reported that Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin is willing to invest $100 million into an NHL arena in the Seattle area. He has his eye on a spot in Bellevue, a city 10 miles east of Seattle.

"It's probably the best market in the United States that does not have a hockey team demographically," Levin told the Times.