On Thursday, 26 days after free agency opened, Washington Capitals veteran Alexander Semin signed a one-year contract with the Southeast Division's Carolina Hurricanes.
The undeniably enigmatic 28-year-old Russian, drafted 13th overall by General Manager George McPhee in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, will make $7 million in Raleigh next season.
He departs the district after recording 197 goals and 211 assists in 469 career regular season games with the Caps.
His final years in DC were tainted with accusations about him not caring about winning, poisoning the morale of the team, not giving it his all on every shift, and the like, but, undeniably, Sasha Semin is one of the Caps' most talented ever players, and one of the stars in the organization over the past several seasons.
All of a sudden, the Washington Capitals have lost 21 goals (without which they would have scored 201 goals in 2011-12, good for 28th in the NHL) and 54 points worth of production.
Down the stretch, Semin was quite possibly the Caps' most important player. After struggling production-wise in Bruce Boudreau's stifling defensive system at the beginning of the year, Semin scored 16 goals and 27 assists for 43 points in the last 50 games of the season for the Caps, finally proved his lofty defensive value (our Joe Beninati correctly once called him "one of the Caps' best defensive forwards") with an impressive plus-minus of +18, and, arguably best of all, reigned it in with his infamous stick penalties, putting up just 20 penalty minutes in those 50 games.
When playing an important top-six role with the Caps in Boudreau's offensive 2008-09 and 2009-10 teams, Semin totaled 74 goals and 89 assists for 161 points in just 135 games.
There is no telling how good he might have been in Adam Oates's expected high-pressure, attack-first system.
Beyond the offensive side, what effect could Semin's departure have on his best friend and ex-Caps teammate Alex Ovechkin? Will Ovechkin struggle to perform on the ice when his off-ice life just got a whole lot tougher?
And what does this mean for prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov's desire to play in North America, with one less Russian in the team to attract him to Washington?
And, despite adding Mike Ribeiro and Wojtek Wolski in the offseason, will the Caps get by not having Semin's shooting prowess rounding out the extra innings trio?
And who is going to play on Ribeiro's second-line wing?
And is the versatility that saw him play on both wings, in all special teams situations, and be effective in all three zones really replaceable?
And who will now play the right half-wall on the first powerplay unit?
And how will we survive without his shy smile, quiet demeanor, dazzling skills, and rocket snapshot lighting up our hockey-crazed hearts?
Semin was on a tear to end the 2011-12 season, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him carry his good form into next season with the 'Canes. Alongside the likes of Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu, and Jussi Jokinen, Semin will be an important player in a strong offensive team. There is little doubt the Caps' rivals just got a whole lot stronger.
Will the Capitals' goalscoring potential match up?
Sixty-four-point man Mike Ribeiro, acquired from the Dallas Stars on at the draft for Cody Eakin and a second-rounder, will help power the offense, but unless free agency acquisition Wojtek Wolski steps up in the top-six, Semin has been unreplaced.
Kuznetsov, 2012 first-rounders Filip Forsberg and Tom Wilson, and Stanislav Galiev will more than adequately replace Sasha's scoring in the longterm, but as for next year and those other unanswered question, it's anyone's guess.
The loss of Alexander Semin could well be devastating for the Caps.