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Canadiens expect skillful Semin to spark offense

by Shawn Roarke

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Right wing Alexander Semin has rare talent, which is why Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin gave him a one-year contract last week.

"He's high-skilled," Bergevin said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium. "He brings something that not a lot of players do have, and obviously things didn't go his way in Carolina. He's going to have a chance to prove he is still the player he once was. He's still young, only 31 years of age. We hope he will bring his skill and compete level to Montreal."

Bergevin was here to promote the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Canadiens and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 (1 p.m. ET: NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). It was the first time Bergevin publicly addressed the signing of the former Carolina Hurricanes forward.

Semin scored six goals and 19 points in 57 games last season. He was bought out of the remaining three years of his five-year contract on June 30.

In 2013-14, Semin had 22 goals in 65 games, and he has scored at least 25 goals five times in his NHL career, including 40 with the Washington Capitals in 2009-10.

Bergevin sees those goal totals and projects what they could mean for the Canadiens, who ranked 20th in goals per game last season (2.61). But he also knows Semin comes with questions about his consistency.

"That was the downside he had in Carolina," Bergevin said. "If you don't score -- and it is hard to score in today's game -- you have to bring something else to the table, whether it is backchecking or stripping pucks or playing solid hockey. That's what I expect if you don't score."

Bergevin said he has spoken to coach Michel Therrien about Semin and expects he can get the most out of him, as Therrien has with other players from similar backgrounds.

"I hope a year from now we are going to be talking to Alex about a new contract," Bergevin said, "but that is up to him."


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Agreeing to terms with Semin last Friday was one of two big moves Bergevin made since the start of free agency on July 1. The other was trading veteran wing Brandon Prust to the Vancouver Canucks for right wing Zack Kassian and a fifth-round draft pick.

Bergevin said the lack of activity is by design. He said he believes in the team he has assembled, one that amassed 110 points and won the Atlantic Division before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"We still have a young core," Bergevin said. "There's a fine line in today's game. Look at [the Anaheim Ducks] losing in seven games and being up 3-2 [against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final]. The [New York Rangers] beating [the Washington Capitals]. Are the Rangers a lot better than Washington? It's a fine line. The players that could put you over the top, they're not available, so you have to believe in your group and take it one step at a time."

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