There are a few benefits to being at the bottom of the NHL standings, which is exactly where the Flames have found themselves at this point of the season. The draft lottery, for one thing; being first in line for waiver claims is another.
And if you knew there was a top-six talent available on waivers – one with a really cheap cap hit – would you put a claim on him?
What if he was Alexander Semin?
A few years removed
Semin’s career high of 40 goals and 84 points came six seasons ago. He’s two seasons removed from 20+ goals and 40+ points. But those past two seasons, including this one, have not been banner years for the 31-year-old.
After a 21-goal, 54-point season back in 2011-12, the Washington Capitals decided to let Semin go. The Carolina Hurricanes picked him up in free agency, and he had back-to-back 40 point seasons for them, including being a point-per-game player in the lockout year.
But in 2014-15, Semin only scored six goals and 19 points through 57 games: not enough, and certainly not acceptable for a player with a $7 million cap hit. So the Hurricanes bought him out, and the Montreal Canadiens signed him on July 24 to a one-year, $1.1 million deal.
But now, it appears as though his days in Montreal are over. Semin scored just one goal and four points over 15 games for the Canadiens, and now, he’s on waivers.
He doesn’t appear to be the point-per-game player he was just a few years ago.
Still a possession driver
Via War on Ice, here’s a visualization of how Semin has been used in Montreal this season:
He’s been placed in sheltered situations akin to those of Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk. However, Eller, 26, is 7-4-11 through 28 games this season; Galchenyuk, 21, is 7-13-20 through the same number of games. So even though he’s played in similar circumstances, Semin, who is much older, isn’t producing as much as other Canadiens. He’s barely producing at all.
Here’s the silver lining for him: he’s a positive corsi player. Of course, that’s to be expected considering the circumstances in which he’s played, but his underlying numbers aren’t much different from Eller and Galchenyuk’s. On the Habs, his CF of 55.48% is fourth out of all forwards with at least 10 games played; his CF60 third at 64.28. At absolute worst, he can still point the puck in the right direction.
It’s been that way for almost his entire career, and it hasn’t changed: even through his decline, he still remains well north of 50%.
Low risk, high reward
Here’s the thing with Semin: at minimum, he’s a competent hockey player on a cheap, one-year deal. There’s almost no downside to claiming him. He fits under the Flames’ cap and bolsters a lineup lacking in talented wingers.
At maximum, he rediscovers his scoring touch. While the Flames continue to experiment with their roster, only one player, Johnny Gaudreau, has scored more than 20 points so far this season, and only Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler have topped 15. Semin is a source of potential help to get things going, and he comes at a ridiculously cheap price – all the while still helping create chances.
And if things don’t work out, hey, there’s the waiver wire.
There is, of course, one risk to claiming Semin: somebody else would have to go. The Flames are at 23 roster players with 14 forwards, seven defencemen, and two goalies. Only Markus Granlund can be sent down without having to clear waivers, and he doesn’t deserve that.
Brandon Bollig, Josh Jooris, and Mason Raymond are the most frequent scratches in the Flames’ forward group, so if somebody has to go, you’d think it has to be one of them. Jooris is young and has more upside, so it wouldn’t be him. Raymond has shown flashes of good play and is stuck with a heavy cap hit, so waiving him may not be ideal. Bollig has a slightly higher cap hit than Semin and has a completely different skill set, but he also hasn’t gotten into a game since Nov. 24.
Semin would, in all likelihood, provide an immediate upgrade to the Flames’ lineup for cheap. Best case scenario, he turns into a 40+ point scorer again. Worst case? He goes back on waivers, and the Flames bring back the player they had to demote to acquire him.
For a team at the bottom of the standings, Alexander Semin is certainly worth considering.