To no one's surprise, Alexander Semin was waived yesterday. While this seemed inevitable since he was signed in August, his waiving may have been due to reasons more than his own performance.
When Semin was signed, the Montreal Canadiens did so with the knowledge that there were many capable young players waiting in the wings. The prudent decision was to sign an NHL veteran in case those players were not ready for the NHL. If they earned a spot, Semin could easily be waived with a minimal penalty against the cap.
Semin was injured in the same game that saw Brendan Gallagher break two fingers, versus the New York Islanders, on November 22. These two injuries resulted in the call-up of Sven Andrighetto, who appears to be a better fit style-wise for the Canadiens.
Andrighetto has been able to produce goals, as well as play at a pace that better suits the speed game that the Canadiens employ.
The other player that may have usurped Semin in the line-up is Christian Thomas. Thomas is a fourth-line player, and that is where Semin last played before getting injured. Unlike Semin, who seems to have lost his wrist shot since experiencing various wrist issues from his time with the Carolina Hurricanes, Thomas possesses a wrist shot that makes him a threat when he is on the ice. This makes Thomas more of a threat for the Habs and that probably means something to the team.
In comparing the three players, it should be noted that there is not much of a drop off, and may even be an improvement, if Semin is swapped out for the two younger players. Both Andrighetto and Thomas have very small sample sizes this season, but they are playing quite well for the Habs at this moment.
While he has played in half the games Semin has this season and his PDO is unsustainably high, Andrighetto is driving possession for the team. Whilst Thomas has only played four games, he has even more impressive results than Semin or Andrighetto because he lacks the zone-start push that the other two received.
Both younger players have a higher points/60 and are cheaper than Semin, plus you can't discount the benefit of NHL experience they are getting.
The contract cost for the Habs if they simply were able to rid themselves of Semin and just play Thomas and Andrighetto for the rest of the season would be a mere $230,000 more than Semin's $1.1 million contract. Even after waiving him, it only costs the Habs $380,000 more against the salary cap to pay two players and the part of Semin's contract that cannot be buried. This is very good for the Canadiens.
Waiving Semin does appear to be a rather intelligent move for the team as it allows them to keep a young player (or two) up who seems to be fitting into the system better while also saving money.
If Semin was brought in to hold a place until some prospects proved themselves ready for the big club, he did that job well. Semin has passed through waivers and can be assigned to the IceCaps of the AHL. If he reports instead of chasing KHL opportunities, he may be able to mentor fellow Russian Nikita Scherbak, a first year pro.
There was no failure in Semin's time with the Canadiens. He is a shadow of the player that he used to be and although he is still a very good player, his playing style does not mesh well with how the Habs play, as was evidenced when he was passed by youngsters in the organization. C'est la vie.