stepped onto the ice as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes for the first time on Saturday, as he joined just more than 10 of his new teammates for what potentially was the final day of informal skates before training camp.
Semin, signed to a one-year, $7 million contract by the Canes on July 26, left his KHL team earlier this week to return stateside. After spending seven seasons with the Washington Capitals, Semin, 28, finds himself in a new dressing room for the first time in his career.
“Everything so far is good,” Semin relayed in Russian through his agent, Todd Diamond. “Everything is new – the team, the area, the teammates. But so far, everything is positive.”
The Krasnoyarsk, Russia, native was admittedly a little rusty on his English, citing the “long summer.” But he’s not rusty on his game, as he logged 20 matches with Torpedo of the KHL during the work stoppage.
“I feel good. I’m ready,” he said. “I’m as close to game shape as I could possibly be.”
That’s good news for the Canes, as Semin adds a lethal scoring threat to the team’s top-six. In 469 career regular-season NHL games, Semin has scored 408 points (197g, 211a). He posted a career year in 2009-10 with 40 goals and 84 points, and he’s one of just 18 NHL players to average at least 30 goals over the last six seasons.
Of any team, the Hurricanes know his tendencies all too well. Washington and Carolina are regular opponents, facing each other six or more times per season since the 2004-05 work stoppage. In 41 games against the Canes, Semin recorded 27 goals and 18 assists (45 points), his most successful stat line versus any team in the league.
“I’ve played against them (Carolina) many times, so I know the style they play,” he said. “I met with Kirk Muller, and Kirk told me he really likes the way I play and my style. He thinks it’s going to be a really good fit, and everybody is really excited to see how it’s going to go.”
Semin, who is a plus-65 in his career and ranks fifth among NHL players with a plus-92 over the last four seasons, is only personally familiar with defenseman Joe Corvo, as the two were teammates in the spring of 2010. But chemistry isn’t a chief concern, even though the left-winger will only have a brief period of time to acclimate himself to the team and its style of play.
“I’m the only Russian here, but I’m not 20 years old,” he said. “I’ve played many years, so I’ll be able to get along with the guys.”
The Hurricanes have done their homework on No. 28, as well. In addition to employing a broad spectrum of analytics, President and General Manager Jim Rutherford said in a July press conference that the front office reached out to as many people possible who had crossed pathers with Semin. The impression? The positives much outweighed any scarce negative experience.
Following a discussion with his parents, Semin, who the Canes had targeted since day one of free agency, agreed to the one-year deal with his former division rival. The subsequent visits the team will make to Semin’s old stomping grounds, he said, won’t be as strange as one might think.
“We’re hockey players. It’s our chosen life,” he said. “One day a guy is your enemy, and the next he’s your best buddy.”
Asked if he had any personal goals for the upcoming season, especially considering the short term of his contract, Semin said he was going to do what he could to score as much as he could. Simple enough.
And he’s ready to jump right in. Playing no exhibition games is fine by him, he said.
“I like that,” he said in clear English. “I want to just play games.”