Jordan Staal likes how he looks in Canes red

calexander@newsobserver.comJuly 28, 2012 

STAAL-SP-072512-TEL

Jordan Staal talks with reporters during a press conference Friday, July 27, 2012, at the PNC Arena. Staal joins his brother Eric in the Carolina Hurricanes lineup after Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford negotiated a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

TRAVIS LONG — tlong@newsobserver.com

— Jordan Staal smiled broadly Friday as he tried on his new Carolina Hurricanes jersey at PNC Arena.

“I think I look pretty good in red,” he said.

For Staal, joining the Hurricanes’ lineup this coming season should be as smooth and seamless as slipping into that No. 11 sweater.

His brother, Eric, is the Canes captain. There are no questions about his game, about his desire to play at a high level. The Canadian is outgoing, media savvy, quotable, and has his name on the Stanley Cup.

Traded to the Canes last month by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jordan Staal was given a 10-year, $60 million contract extension by Carolina. The big center, 23, already has been named an alternate captain and was in Raleigh house hunting with his wife, Heather.

Then there’s Alexander Semin.

Talk about a contrast.

Semin agreed to a one-year, free-agent contract Thursday with Carolina that will pay him $7 million. The Russian speaks a little English and had scarce contact with the media in his seven seasons with the Washington Capitals.

Semin, 28, has scored 40 goals in a season but had just 21 last season. He comes to the Hurricanes knowing no one, and according to agent Mark Gandler, will maintain his U.S. residence and “adopted hometown” in Arlington, Va.

“There’s going to be an adjustment period for Alex,” Canes general manager Jim Rutherford said Friday. “He’s played his whole career in Washington and certainly the fact he doesn’t know many or any guys on our team, there will be a bigger adjustment for him.

“But he really wants to do well. And he’s talented enough that in that adjustment period, however long it may be, he will be able to contribute to the team. We’re all hoping this works for everybody. If it does Alex could find a home here for a long time.”

In an interview Thursday night, Semin said he was excited about the chance to start anew with the Canes.

“Carolina has a good team,” he said. “We want it to be a good playoff team.”

After missing the playoffs the past three seasons, the Hurricanes want that, too. Badly.

“I think the fact we’re now going out and paying a free agent $7 million is making a pretty strong statement of where we feel our team is at and where we feel we can go,” Rutherford said.

Semin said leaving Washington will be tough. The winger was the Caps’ first-round pick in 2002. Playing with fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin for years in a fast-paced offensive system, Semin became one of the league’s top snipers.

“It will be hard for me because this is the first time in my career I have gone to another team,” Semin said. “It’s a new experience for me.”

Canes coach Kirk Muller said he likes the thought of adding a right-handed shooter to his lineup, and especially his power play. Adding Jordan Staal and Semin gives him more options in line combinations.

Muller could have Jordan Staal centering Eric Staal and Semin. Or Eric Staal could stay at center with Semin on the wing.

“He’s a game-breaker,” Muller said of Semin. “Some say negative stuff about him and some say he can be a 40-goal scorer. We’ll give him the opportunity and see how he does.”

The “negative stuff” often has included questions about Semin’s motivation, work ethic and inconsistent playoff performances. But Rutherford said he gathered enough information on Semin – starting in Pittsburgh at the NHL Entry Draft, when he talked with former Caps coach Bruce Boudreau – before making the offer.

“You get different reviews from different people, but certainly the positives much outweighed the people who had a negative experience with him,” Rutherford said.

Semin said he knew little about Muller or his coaching style, noting, “It’s hard to say where I will fit.” As for starting over in Carolina, he said, “It probably will be good for me. I like this team.”

Jordan Staal has never played for any team but the Penguins but likes the idea of playing with Eric, saying the brothers were ecstatic about the trade – on Jordan’s wedding day, no less. He likes the commitment shown by the Canes in signing Semin.

“I know Alexander can really do some damage and play some great hockey,” Staal said. “For myself, I’m just going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and hopefully keep getting better. Hopefully we can make an impact. Hopefully make the playoffs and do some damage.”

Alexander: 919-829-8945

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