MONTREAL -- The Montreal Canadiens took a minimal risk to potentially reap a huge reward by agreeing to terms on a one-year contract with unrestricted free agent forward Alexander Semin on Friday.
Semin's contract with the Canadiens reportedly is worth $1.1 million. The Carolina Hurricanes bought out the final three years of his five-year, $35 million contract earlier this month.
The Canadiens finished last season 20th in the NHL in goals per game and 23rd in power-play efficiency, two areas the Canadiens hope Semin's arrival can address.
"Alex is a pure goal-scorer with a good shot," general manager Marc Bergevin said in a statement. "We believe his addition to our group of forwards will strengthen our offensive production and our power play. A veteran winger with size, Semin has reached the 20-goal plateau seven times since the beginning of his NHL career 12 years ago. His signing represents a great opportunity for the organization and for Alex's career."
Semin, 31, is coming off the worst season of his NHL career, one that led the Hurricanes to buy him out and carry a $2.33 million salary cap charge for the next six seasons, according to war-on-ice.com. Semin had six goals and 19 points in 57 games with the Hurricanes last season, each the lowest total of his 10 NHL seasons.
"Probably this [will] help me restart my career and I start to play well," Semin said during a conference call. "I don't know."
Semin's production last season with Carolina sticks out when looking at his career as a whole, because he has a track record of offensive production. In his first two seasons with the Hurricanes, Semin scored 35 goals and 66 points in 109 games, a pace of approximately 26 goals and 50 points over 82 games.
"I want to try [to restart my career] because last year I had a bad season for me," Semin said. "I [didn't score any] points, I [did not play] well. I try going back to how I can play. I think the team [can] help me and I [can] help the team too [to have a] good season."
Semin has an NHL career shooting percentage of 12.8, but last season he scored at a rate that was nearly half that, a career-low 6.5 percent. He generated shots on goal at his lowest rate since his rookie season in 2003-04, 28.4 shots per 60 minutes of ice time at 5-on-5, according to war-on-ice.com. That was 33.8 and 33.9 in his first two seasons in Carolina, the third and fourth highest totals of his career.
Semin said he thought the wrist surgery he had in the summer of 2014 might have affected his ability to perform to his standards last season, but otherwise wanted to focus on his future with Montreal rather than attempt to explain his past in Carolina.
"I'm looking forward for Montreal," he said. "That's it."
At the time he was placed on waivers in order to be bought out, Carolina general manager Ron Francis told the Raleigh News & Observer that Semin's competitiveness was an issue. He was a healthy scratch on a few occasions by coach Bill Peters, who cited his conditioning as a problem.
"He certainly has had some injuries, but last season he did not have the compete level we expect," Francis told the News & Observer on June 30. "We talk about holding our players accountable, and there were some things we felt he did not hold up to, so we made this decision.
"When we talk about accountability and a consistently high compete level, we have to follow through, or they make no sense. He did not have that high compete level, for whatever reason."
But the Canadiens are lacking in goals, something Semin has proven he can provide, which might earn him some rope with new coach Michel Therrien. Montreal's leading scorer, Max Pacioretty, is recovering from a knee injury and is likely to miss all of training camp and most, if not all, of the preseason.
Semin had a five-season stretch with the Washington Capitals from 2006-07 to 2010-11 that placed him among the best scorers in the NHL. During that span, Semin was seventh in the NHL in goals per game and 20th in points per game, according to Hockey-reference.com.
The Capitals allowed Semin to leave as a free agent in 2012 and he signed a one-year contract worth $7 million with the Hurricanes. In the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, his first in Carolina, Semin had 13 goals and 44 points in 44 games, finishing second on the Hurricanes in scoring and getting the five-year contract that was bought out earlier this month.
Semin now faces a similar situation, having signed a one-year contract after his previous team decided it was better off without him.
Bergevin and the Canadiens are hopeful Semin reacts the same way he did three years ago, and in the process fills an offensive void in their lineup.