After a messy buyout from the Arizona Coyotes, it was easy to wonder whether any NHL team was going to take a chance on Mike Ribeiro this season. The answer came Tuesday when the Nashville Predators announced the club signed the veteran center to a one-year, $1.05 million deal, helping fill a void at center.
The Predators were in a bit of a bind after Mike Fisher went down with a ruptured Achilles tendon during training. He'll be out four to six months at least, which left a fairly big hole that needed to be filled. Ribeiro was one of the best free agent options available despite the baggage that came with his departure from the Coyotes.
According to a report from Fox Sports Arizona, Ribeiro frequently missed meetings, team buses and had a falling out with head coach Dave Tippett, forcing the club to cut ties rather eagerly. Since Ribeiro's four-year, $22 million deal was signed under the new collective bargaining agreement, he was not eligible for a compliance buyout, meaning the Coyotes will also absorb a cap hit of nearly $2 million through 2019-20 thanks to the buyout. That's how badly they wanted to get him out of town after trades failed.
The 34-year-old center had 47 points over 80 games with the Coyotes last year, which was bitterly disappointing after Ribeiro had been a point-per-game player a season before with the Washington Capitals.
In 865 career games spanning stints with the Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars, Capitals and Coyotes, Ribeiro has posted 656 points. Knowing the risks associated with the forward, the Preds are inheriting a player with some scoring potential and they definitely need to score more goals next season.
Before Fisher comes back, and depending how things go, maybe after, Ribeiro very well could be a No. 1 center for the Predators. Still with solid playmaking abilities, he could be paired with natural scorer James Neal, who was acquired in a draft day trade by Nashville. Ribeiro had a great deal of success in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season when paired with Alex Ovechkin, who ended up as the league's MVP when all was said and done.
There is of course that risk, however. Ribeiro comes with a reputation and definitely doesn't fit into the mold of the homogenized hockey culture. If the buyout humbled him at all, and it should have, perhaps things will be different in Nashville.
General manager David Poile somewhat addressed the concerns in his statement announcing the new contract.
"Mike is a talented veteran center who has produced offensively everywhere he has played,” Poile said. “We have done our due diligence and believe Mike has a lot to offer to our team, improves us at our center ice position and will fit in with our group and contribute.”
The Predators have often been more on the conservative side, so if Poile says the team felt comfortable after doing their due diligence, it's a good sign for Ribeiro. They had other options, not good ones, but they went with Ribeiro in spite of everything out there about him right now.
Considering the term and money, it's really not much of a risk to take on a guy who has been productive for much of his career.
With a new situation and a rather embarrassing buyout, Ribeiro very well could get a fresh start and be an impact player for Nashville, which ended up in the bottom half in league scoring with 2.61 goals per game.
In a related note, the addition of Ribeiro likely rules out the Predators as a possible suitor for Vincent Lecavalier as well. The Flyers are reportedly looking to deal the veteran center, but with Ribeiro to Nashville, the Preds don't have a need anymore despite being a rumored possible trading partner.
The Predators have made some interesting moves this summer by adding Neal and now Ribeiro, but also have some exciting young talent looking to make an impact at the NHL level in Calle Jarnkrok and Filip Forsberg. Things are starting to look up for the Preds after a tough season last year. They might not yet compete in the tough Central Division, but they're going to be better in 2014-15.