RALEIGH — Having signed a five-year contract extension with the Carolina Hurricanes, Alexander Semin will become one of the best-known sports figures in the Triangle.
How well sports fans come to know Semin is another story.
The Russian winger rarely gives interviews. Even rarer are appearances on camera. He speaks passable English but appears uncomfortable with the media.
Some say Semin, 29, is wary of the media. Some say hes a shy, introverted person, although teammates describe him as a friendly, easy going type.
Hes a fun guy around us, forward Jiri Tlusty said. He seemed like a quiet guy at first, but now hes all over the place. I think he enjoys his time with us. Thats great, and were happy to be around him.
Soon after signing the $35 million extension last month, Semin took the team out to eat, picking up a sizable tab. A good time, apparently, was had by all.
Thats all anecdotal. For now, thats how the media and, in turn, hockey fans get information about a player who has been a point-per-game producer for the Canes in his first season and played on the top line with Eric Staal and Tlusty.
Triangle sports fans are accustomed to having more immediacy with their stars, whether its homegrown figures such as Josh Hamilton and Webb Simpson or those who play college sports. Staal is interviewed often. Fans see and hear a lot from, say, the Canes Jeff Skinner.
There is no language barrier. They are willing interviewees. Its different with Semin, but that could change, Staal said.
Well, hes going to be here the next five years, so the fans can continue to learn about him, Staal said. Im sure his personality as the time goes on will come out more and more. I think hell continue to learn the language more and people will get to know him and his personality.
Hes actually pretty open
Hurricanes general manager Jim Rutherford signed Semin to the extension but says he does not speak to him often, leaving that to Canes coach Kirk Muller and the staff. But Muller says he has no problem communicating with the forward.
I probably talk to him maybe more than any player on the team, Muller said. Its not long (but) he has no problem coming to me, direct, whether he feels like he needs a day off or has a question about the power play.
Hes actually pretty open. He wont do it in the big group, but hell come to me one-on-one. Hes been good that way.
Staal, the Canes team captain, said he knew nothing of Semins personality before the season began in January. In seven years with the Washington Capitals, Semin played many games against the Canes in the Southeast Division and scored a lot of goals, but that was the extent of Staals knowledge of him.
Ive since gotten to know him on a personal level as well as a competitive level, Staal said. Hes a guy who has been a good teammate to everybody. Hes a guy who has been ready to work and ready to compete, in practice and games,
For me, to be able to play with a guy with the work ethic he has and then the skill level he has, it has been fun. It has made my game better.
Staal, who centers the line, ranks among the NHL scoring leaders with 49 points (18 goals, 31 assists). Tlusty, who has played the left wing on the line, has a career-high 21 goals.
A smart hockey player
Semin has 12 goals and 31 assists 43 points in 43 games and a plus-14 rating. For those wondering how the signing of an extension might affect Semim, he had 30 points in 30 games before the March 25 signing, 13 points in 13 games since it.
Muller said he would like to see Semin be more selfish in a good way. Dont pass up good shots. Dont look to make the perfect pass. Shoot the puck.
The thing with Alex hes not going to do everything 100 percent in alignment with your system because he thinks the game in a special way, Muller said. He reads the play one play ahead of a lot of people. Hes a smart hockey player.
Tlusty sits next to Semin in the PNC Arena locker room, learning a few more Russian words each week. All the better, Tlusty said, to needle the Russian.
Tlusty said there was a power outage in PNC Arena last season, and the players jokingly blamed it on Tuomo Ruutu signing a contract extension.
We were telling him the power would probably go off again, Tlusty said.
During games, the Staal line has been consistently good. Against Tampa Bay on Sunday, Tlusty scored twice. Semin had a goal and two assists and Staal two assists.
In the heat of games, with the crowd roaring, it can be difficult for players to talk to each other, even side by side on the bench. And then to have a player who has trouble with English ...
But that is not a problem with Semin, Staal said.
He grasps everything youre trying to tell him, Staal said. When you play together you can read situations, read plays and understand what each others kind of thinking.
Thats what I love about playing with him. We kind of think on the same level of what were doing on the ice.
While the Canes likely will undergo offseason changes, there should be one constant: The top line will stay together. The chemistry with Semin will continue to grow, Staal said.
Its going to be fun for the next while to be able to play together and continue to develop a relationship off the ice and on the ice, Staal said.
Alexander: 919-829-8945; Twitter: @ice_chip