Sign Semin, Trade Lupul

WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 28: Alex Ovechkin #8 and Alexander Semin #28 of the Washington Capitals warm up before the game against the Boston Bruins at Verizon Center on September 28 2010 in Washington DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

With Ryan Suter, Matt Carle and Zach Parise off the market the last marquee free agent available is one Mr. Alexander Semin. Semin, like his buddy Alexander Ovechkin had what many people would describe as a down year last year, putting up 21 goals and 33 assists for 54pts in 77 games.

Last season that would have placed Semin three points ahead of Mikhail Grabovski for third on the team, but more importantly Alex Semin has insane possession statistics. The Leafs had four forwards with positive Corsi Rel last year: Phil Kessel, Mikhail Grabovski, Clarke MacArthur, and Nikolai Kulemin. Semin would have come in second on the Leafs in this measure.

What's with the title? Follow me over the jump.

I want to talk about Game Theory. Using a "normal-form game" we can think about combinations of possible outcomes. In this case we're considering two options: should the Leafs sign Alex Semin, and what happens with Joffrey Lupul.

The first option is simple enough. The second might be not so obvious. Joffrey Lupul had a career year last year. What happens if he doesn't repeat?

Lupul is Great Lupul is Stinky
Sign Semin Good problem No problem
Don't Sign Semin No problem Big Problem

This should be fairly straightforward now. We can be reasonably confident that Alex Semin will put up first line points and drive possession positively on the first line with Phil Kessel and so by signing him we eliminate the "Big Problem" box from our possibilities. Now our choice narrows down to essentially "What if Lupul repeats?" or "What if he was a fluke?"

At this stage in the game either choice is bad for Leafs fans. If Lupul is good he'll likely earn a salary comparable to the much more durable Semin. If Lupul is bad we've lost our first line again. If we trade Lupul right now we might get young assets back and the UFA market has his replacement available.

Even if you like Joffrey Lupul, and he seems like a fairly humorous person, you might as well take whatever assets we get in trade for him and replace him with a superior (and younger) player in Alex Semin.

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