Michael Nylander has left a hole beneath the salary cap to the tune of $4 million. Nylander’s awkward and only somewhat amicable exit from the Washington Capitals opens up doors of possibility for the team. Naive I was to think that this discussion need not happen until nearer the draft or at least the trade deadline. Nope, we’re already hearing rumors that the Caps are interested in Ilya Kovalchuk. The left winger superstar has been firmly ensconced in Atlanta since 2001, and his hefty salary is still greater than what was freed up by Nylander’s exit. So what’s gonna give? Well, it better not be my boy, Alexander Semin!
Listen. Try not to act shocked, but this site is called Russian Machine Never Breaks, so we’re sort of in the business of hyping up the Sashas and the junior goalie with the currently sore crotch. Sure, Kovalchuk is a Russian, too, but then we won’t be able to do the “Lesser Sasha” and “Sasha Proper” jokes. Really, our Sasha joke quotient will be cut in half. Plus, there’s also that I think Semin is a terrific hockey player and an asset to the team.
The current Caps roster is built around Alexander Ovechkin, right? So wouldn’t the adding of another star left wing dilute that focus? Semin compliments Ovechkin, and on some days he outshines him. Kovalchuk’s numbers (593 points in 573 games) aren’t even that much better than Semin’s (244 points in 278 games), or at least perhaps not good enough to excuse the salary differential.
Yeah, I’m aware of the problems with Semin. He willfully won’t speak English, he went AWOL after the lockout, he gives up offensive-zone penalties like a (offensive joke about senior prom here), and he’s got more flash than substance. Guess what? I don’t care. Alexander Semin is under the wizardly guidance of Bruce “You had me at no problem” Boudreau. Bruce is upfront about his unhappiness with the lesser Sasha (see? You don’t wanna lose that!), and I think we’ve seen Semin respond with increased discipline and focus since returning from his wrist injury.
Alexander Semin’s presence on the Caps rewards both him and the team. Yeah, Kovalchuk is attractive, but we can’t ditch our date everytime some flirty girl at the other end of the bar flashes us a kind look. And if this truly is a championship season after all, we ought not mess with the magic halfway into it.
(This post’s Sasha count = 5)