Photo credit: Gerry Thomas
Last year, the Capitals re-signed Alex Semin to a one-year, $6.7 million extension on January 27th, ending months of speculation about the 27-year-old’s future with the team. This season, Semin’s production is way down (17 goals in 59 games), and he’s on pace to have his lowest goal-scoring season since his rookie year in 2003-04 when he tallied 10 goals in 52 games. No early extension was forthcoming this January for Semin, nor will it be, as Caps GM George McPhee told NHL Live Tuesday — but it’s not because of his off year. McPhee has decided to change his strategy.
“We have talked to [Wideman and Semin's representatives] and we told them we’ll talk to them at the end of the season. I wanted to take a little bit of a different approach this year. In the past, we’ve sort of signed guys as we’ve come along. I’m… not sure — you know — if… it’s the best thing because one guy gets signed, and then another guy doesn’t. And he’s upset. So I thought this year, let’s just have them all play and play hard for new contracts and hope we get real good performances from everyone and deal with it when the season’s over.”
There’s a great deal to digest from McPhee’s admission that some players weren’t happy with the early signings.
Alex Semin and Matt Hendricks were both given contract extensions before the trade deadline last season, Semin in January and Hendricks in February. Mike Knuble was also given a one-year extension in April. Meanwhile, Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault, and Karl Alzner were not signed until the summer. Laich was given a six-year $27 million deal days before he was set to become an unrestricted free agent, Perreault inked a $525,000 two-way deal in July, and Alzner had little option but to sign a low two-year $2.57 million deal after not receiving any other offers. Some players, such as Matt Bradley and Semyon Varlamov, were not brought back at all. Matt Bradley signed a two-year deal with division rival Florida, while Varly’s negotiations were contentious and he was eventually traded to Colorado.
The Capitals have ten players that will be either restricted or unrestricted free agents come this July, including Semin, whose status with the team has once again been a source of widespread speculation all season, and Wideman, who is an unrestricted free agent in a career year. It seems that this time around, McPhee prefers to deal with them all at once.
If so, this may get a little complicated. Nearly half the Caps’ roster will be free agents this summer, including key pieces such as Mike Green and John Carlson — both RFA — and question marks such as Tomas Vokoun and Mike Knuble. Who do you think the Caps will bring back?”