Luke DeCock

Millions a small price to pay to make Canes’ Semin go away

Alexander Semin said Monday his season was “tough.” You want to talk about tough? Try watching Semin slouch around the ice night after night after night.

In lieu of starting a Kickstarter to pay for Semin’s buyout – even if enough people chipped in, the end result would still be writing a $14 million check to Peter Karmanos, and for that much, you might as well just buy the team from him – it’s up to the Carolina Hurricanes to cleanse themselves of their most disappointing, frustrating and infuriating player.

General manager Ron Francis, in the sixth annual postseason recitation of why the Hurricanes missed the playoffs – a slow start with Jordan Staal injured and 27 one-goal losses, in case you thought it was merely that the team wasn’t nearly good enough – refused to rise to any of the bait thrown his way about Semin on Wednesday.

Francis did say he would “look at all the options we have going forward” regarding Semin, but there’s only one option to explore: Pay him $14 million to go away. That’s his buyout: Two-thirds of the remaining value of his contract, spread over six years.

Semin is unquestionably talented. He showed during his first season with the Hurricanes that, when healthy and motivated, he’s still a dangerous scoring threat. Then he got a five-year contract that pays him $7 million a season, and he hasn’t been dangerous since. Two seasons into that deal, Semin has scored a total of 28 goals. In his three seasons here, the Hurricanes have played zero playoff games, not that it’s entirely his fault.

First-year coach Bill Peters ran out of patience with Semin within a few months of taking the job. Semin came into camp out of shape, couldn’t keep up with everyone else on the roster and blamed offseason wrist surgery for an entire season of subpar performances. (Eric Staal, who has his own critical segment of the fan base, and not without some justification, played six weeks on a broken ankle and never mentioned it.)

Meanwhile, regardless of his fitness or effort level, Semin’s game has declined. His shooting percentage of 6.5 percent was the lowest of his career, leading to a mere six goals and 13 assists. He was fourth on the team in relative Corsi, a shooting-based stat where he led the team by a wide margin a year ago.

Semin refused to speak with the media for almost the entire season, which is notable only because it’s in the rules and everyone else has to do it. Which is the biggest reason to get rid of Semin: There can’t be two sets of rules, one for Semin and one for everyone else.

That’s true even when he’s playing well, but you can at least rationalize it if he’s scoring goals. When he’s not, when he’s a liability, playing his own game out there, what message does that send to impressionable young players? It says that as long as you have a long-term deal, you can do whatever (or as little) as you like. There are no consequences. There is no accountability.

Semin has had second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth chances here. He’s been a healthy scratch and he finished the season on a line with Eric and Jordan Staal. The results have been the same. It’s time to pay the price and pull the plug.

Will that help the team? Not as much as bringing in three legitimate NHL defensemen would. But you do it anyway.

You do this in the full knowledge that he’ll sign a one-year contract somewhere else and score 40 goals. You do this because you need to send a message to the rest of the team that partial commitment is no longer acceptable. You do this because it’s worth $14 million to get him away from your young players. You do this because after missing the playoffs yet again with essentially the same roster, it’s time to do something.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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