I'm just going to come right out and say it: The Rangers should target Alexander Semin. Well, they should do it after they finish the Derek Stepan negotiations, but it should be the very next thing on their to do list.
Since I can already see the pitchforks and torches coming towards me, let me stop for a minute and make a point I think is really important. We inherently associate defense with "trying hard." Adam brings up this point all the time, but name a defense-first player who has ever had his character, grit or heart questioned. Don't worry I'll wait ...
OK so since none of you came up with something I'll continue. Defense has always been looked at as the great intangible. When a defensive player struggles (cough, Dan Girardi, cough) people still find ways to appreciate what they're doing if they're blocking shots/hitting people/trying on defense. When a two-way player loses his offensive prowess no one really cares (unless you're Rick Nash or Stepan, apparently) because they think the player is trying hard.
There are no offensive-first players who avoid that criticism when the offense goes away, for whatever reason. Being a general manager in the NHL is all about taking risks. Want to know some of the risks Glen Sather took in recent years? Ryan Malone, Anton Stralman and Benoit Pouliot are the most recent names on that list. Malone was obviously a bust, but these are very low risk moves. Stralman and Pouliot, obviously, are examples of what the bigger payout might become and are the goal when looking at making a move with some risk associated with it. And if the risk is a one-year contract at a low salary, there's no reason not to take the plunge.
So here's the knock on Semin: Last year he was paid $7-million and only notched 19 points in 57 games. There's a few factors for this that get overlooked. The first is Carolina was awful and while Semin was expected to be a bigger part of the offense, the Hurricanes' leading scorer was Eric Staal with 54 points in 77 games. Only Justin Faulk (49 points) notched more than 40 points.
The second reason is Semin's PDO was awful. As a reminder, PDO is the combination of a player's on ice shooting percentage and the save percentage when he is on the ice. A PDO of 100% is considered to be normal, so anything below that is attributed to bad luck and anything above that is attributed to good luck. Semin's PDO last year? 97.49 at evens. That might not seem like a lot, but it is a big deal.
You want more proof Semin wasn't as bad as everyone thinks he was last year? On an atrocious team he was third at evens with a 55.89 corsi for%, a total that was third best on the team (I'm ignoring Danny Biega's totals because he only played in 10 games last year).
Semin, by the way, only averaged 1:30 of power play time last year. In his other two years in Carolina he averaged 3:24 and 3:33 respectively. Don't you think a >50% drop in PP time impacted his numbers a little bit, too?
This is what's going to happen with Semin: He's going to sign a contract on the cheap (remember, he gets 100% of that salary Carolina just bought him out of) and his PDO is going to bounce back next year and he's going to put up numbers. It probably won't be at the 70-80-point level of his past, but a cheap depth addition putting up between 40-50 points is the type of thing a Stanley Cup contender has in its arsenal.
The fabricated stories about Semin being a locker room cancer and someone you "don't want on a Cup contending team" is nonsense. Imagine Semin on a wing with Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes? Imagine his creativity on the power play with with Mats Zuccarello? Believe me when I tell you you'd rather have those offensive players in your lineup than wishing you had them later on -- for example, say on a team that couldn't muster up a goal in Game 5 or 7 of the Eastern Conference Final at home.
If a deal can be struck for cheap, there is literally not a single reason again signing someone like Semin. If you really believe the fabric of the Rangers' locker room can be torn apart by one player who has no history or evidence of being even so much as a problem in the locker room than that's on you.
Sometimes you need to takes risks as a general manager. Some are bigger than others.
This one wouldn't be that big of a deal.