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Did the Hurricanes overpay for Semin?

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Did the Hurricanes overpay for Semin?

Turns out Alex Semin and his agent were serious about cashing in on the free agent market.

Twenty-five days after being described on national television as a loser and coach killer, Semin and the Carolina Hurricanes have agreed on a one-year contract worth 7 million, the club announced today, officially ending Semins eight-year career in Washington.

We have done a lot of research about Alexander, and discussions about his fit with our team have included people at many different levels of our organization, including players, coaches and staff, Hurricanes general manager Rutherford.

Whats been clear throughout this process was his commitment to wanting to play in the NHL, and compete against the worlds best players.

Alexanders elite skill level and ability to score from the wing fill an important need on the ice, and we hope that a fresh start in Carolina will serve both Alexander and our team well.

Semins 7 million salary is the highest of his NHL career and is 300,000 more than he made with the Capitals last season. His salary for next season ranks second on the Hurricanes, behind only Eric Staal 8.25 million.

The raise is substantial when you consider Semin, 28, is coming off a season in which he recorded 21 goals and 54 points in 77 regular season games and three goals and one assist in 14 playoff games.

Im very happy to be a Carolina Hurricane, Semin said. Its a great fit for me. I look forward to playing with great players, and putting together a winning season.

Earlier this month, on the first day of free agency, Semins character was verbally attacked on TSN when analyst Marc Crawford said he had no character and was a complete loser while analyst Pierre McGuire called him the ultimate coach killer.
Semin was believed to be seeking a two-year deal, but apparently no NHL team was willing to give him one.

Selected by the Caps in the first round 13th overall of the 2002 NHL draft, Semin has totaled 197 goals and 211 assists 408 points and 450 penalty minutes in 469 career regular-season games in Washington.

Did the Hurricanes overpay for Semin? And how should his career in Washington be remembered? Join the conversation below.

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Capitals winger Tom Wilson returns from suspension, but has he learned his lesson?

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USA Today Sports

Capitals winger Tom Wilson returns from suspension, but has he learned his lesson?

WASHINGTON —Tom Wilson had his 20-game suspension reduced just in time by a neutral arbitrator Tuesday and the Capitals will welcome back their rugged winger tonight against the Minnesota Wild. 

Better late than never after Wilson missed the first 16 games of the season. The arbitrator, Shyam Das, actually knocked the suspension down to 14 games from the original 20, but there’s no time machine to put Wilson back in the lineup for home losses to Columbus and Arizona.

There’s also no time machine for Wilson to go back and avoid illegally checking St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the head. That play, during a Sept. 27 preseason game, was the final straw for the NHL, which had suspended Wilson three times in the previous 13 months. 

It was a bad hit at a pointless time in a meaningless exhibition game and gets right to the heart of the matter: Can Tom Wilson change how he plays? And if he does, is he worth what the Capitals invested in him this summer?

“The hitting aspect of the game is definitely changing a little bit, and I’ve got to be smart out there, and I’ve got to play within the rules,” Wilson said on Oct. 14. “And at the end of the day, no one wants to be in the situation that I’m in right now. I’ve got to change something because obviously it’s not good to be out and not helping your team.”

Washington signed Wilson to a six-year, $31 million contract in July. He is a unique player in the NHL, a 6-foot-4, 220-pound wrecking ball who can put the fear of God into opposing players, but isn’t just another goon. He can play. He had 14 goals and 21 assists last year, doubling his previous best, while playing on the top line with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Capitals believe Wilson has more in him.

"No, I don't think he has to change. I've been in this situation, too,” Ovechkin said. “To be honest with you, I don't want to talk about his game because he knows what he has to do. I think it's just a situation where you let it go…He just have to play the same way he played and don't listen to no one because it's your choice how you playing."

There is also an elephant in the room. Ovechkin is only under contract two more years after this one. Nicklas Backstrom is a free agent after next season. Both players will be well into their 30s when free agency hits. The Capitals would love them to retire here, but no one can say what will happen. Wilson is a potential captain, a gregarious, vocal presence who is under contract through 2024. He is young enough to lead the post-Ovechkin team the organization builds. 

But all of that investment goes to waste if Wilson can’t stay on the ice and that is the immediate problem. Because the next bad decision, the next time Wilson crosses the line the punishment only goes higher. Remember when he broke Zach Aston-Reese’s jaw in the second round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins last May? If that happens again Wilson will be staring at a 25-to-30 game suspension. That’s almost one-third of an entire season. 

Wilson’s teammates have been supportive. Ovechkin’s comments indicate that. T.J. Oshie has been outspoken on Wilson’s play since the playoffs last year when he had multiple close calls, including the Aston-Reese hit that earned him a three-game suspension during the Pittsburgh series. Wilson hit Columbus forward Alex Wennberg in the first round, but escaped supplemental discipline.    

“When I'm going to hit someone, I'm going to hit him as hard as I can. But that doesn't mean I want to hurt him,” Oshie told NBC Sports Washington on Oct. 2. “It means I want to change the way the game's going. I want to separate him from the puck. I want him to fall down so for a brief moment, we have five guys going and they've got four. Tom does it the same way. He gets penalized, I think, for his size and strength.”

There is a fine line, however, between being supportive and enabling a player and Washington’s players, coaches and executives at least walk that line with their public comments. The organization is still upset at the suspension for the Aston-Reese hit. Wilson himself, while acknowledging all the work he did last year to meet with NHL officials and understand what he can and can’t do, said after that hit that ex-players and friends around the league were texting him not to change a thing. 

Those mixed messages could prove troublesome because the NHL itself is unambiguous. Wilson is out of chances and no matter how the Caps feel about that interpretation, they need him to heed the warnings.     

“There are certain ways they are calling things,” Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. “You need to be aware of how they’re making their calls on suspensions. Tom is a big, strong guy who skates really well. There is a lot of force behind his contact. He needs to be aware of how they’re determining what’s legal and what’s illegal from the league’s standpoint.” 

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Tom Wilson immediately moves back onto the top line for Tuesday’s game in Minnesota

Tom Wilson immediately moves back onto the top line for Tuesday’s game in Minnesota

After a neutral arbitrator reduced Tom Wilson’s suspension on Tuesday, head coach Todd Reirden is wasting no time getting him back into the lineup. Wilson will make his season debut against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday  (8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Washington) and he will play on the top line alongside Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov.

“That's where he's most comfortable,” Reirden said after the team’s morning skate Tuesday.

“They had some preseason time together and I thought it was the right move to do tonight. I liked some of the things that we saw from some of the adjustments we made last game, but I think this will allow Tom to have the most success after an extended period of time out of game action.”

With Wilson’s return, the Caps will have their full offensive lineup for the first time this season. After reuniting Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie on the top line for Sunday’s game, Reirden has elected to change things again and go with the same top nine that worked so effectively during the team’s playoff run last season, per Isabelle Khurshudyan.

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – T.J. Oshie
Andre Burakovsky – Lars Eller – Brett Connolly
Chandler Stephenson – Travis Boyd – Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov – John Carlson
Michal Kempny – Matt Niskanen
Christian Djoos – Madison Bowey

Pheonix Copley to start.

The addition of Wilson dramatically changes the team’s lineup and chemistry. Not only does it make the lineup deeper, he also obviously adds a major physical element.

“He's such a big part of our team, of the way we play, of the culture on and off the ice that we've been missing something,” Oshie said. “It's been 43 so it's great to have him back.”

While the Caps are getting their top-line winger back, the team is also entering the game well aware that it may take time for him to get up to game speed.

“For him, we have to have realistic expectations that he's going to have a little bit of a learning curve here in terms of getting back up to speed and getting back up to the pace of play which is something that's at an all-time high this year,” Reirden said.

With that in mind, do not be surprised to see the Caps shuffle their offensive lines throughout the night rather than lean on Wilson to play 18+ minutes in his first game back, especially if the Caps get into penalty trouble and Wilson plays on the penalty kill.

While Wilson did travel with the team in the event that his suspension would be reduced and he would be eligible to play, neither he nor the team received any advanced notice that he would be available.

“I wake up this morning and at 8:30 I get news I've got to get ready to play,” Wilson said.

“It was definitely a unique experience, one that you don't ever want to go through, a bit eye-opening. At the end of the day, there's a game today, I've got to focus on that and it's a big road trip so I've got to focus on this team getting back on track and do whatever I can to help out.”

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