The Capitals acquired veteran center Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars on Friday night at the NHL Draft in Pittsburgh for center Cody Eakin and the team’s second-round draft pick, No. 54 overall.
The move fills a gaping hole in Washington’s lineup. Nicklas Backstrom is one of the league’s best centers when healthy. But his absence for 40 games last season due to post-concussion symptoms exposed the Caps’ lack of offensive depth down the middle. This move should allow Brooks Laich to slide back to a third-line center role with Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer – depending on who else is added this summer. Laich could always play wing on the second line, of course, as he’s done in the past.
“I certainly liked the way we played in the playoffs,” general manager George McPhee told reporters in Pittsburgh. “We’ve got some big, gritty forwards and we just wanted to put another skilled guy in the middle of it to see if it helps. And I think it makes our team immediately better today.”
Ribeiro, 32, is a Montreal native. He spent six seasons with his home province Canadiens and then the last six with the Stars after questions about his maturity and work ethic led to a trade in 2006. As a player he certainly improved once he went to Dallas, peaking with 83 points in 2007-08. Off the ice? Maybe. But it should be noted that he was arrested Oct. 10, 2010 for public intoxication at a Plano, Texas restaurant.
In each of the last eight seasons Ribeiro has totaled 51 points or more. He had 71 in 2010-11 and 63 last season. He is also productive on the power play and Washington can use an upgrade there after two years of relative struggles (17.5 percent in 2010-11 and 16.7 percent in 2011-12) given its talent. His totals on the power play the last eight years: 24 points, 25, 27, 31, 23, 23, 23 and 15. Over the last two years only Alex Ovechkin has reached even 23 power-play points for the Caps.
Ribeiro has averaged 155 shots on goal the last four seasons with a low of 142 and a high of 163. He’s settled in at a sustainable shooting percentage between 11.8 and 13.5. He was on the ice for 2.72 goals/60 minutes of play last year and 2.63 goals against/60.
He’s been durable during that four-year stretch with two seasons of 82 games, 74 played last season and a low of 66 in 2009-10. Those 66 games are a bit fluky because Ribeiro suffered a serious throat contusion in a Jan. 6 game against the New York Rangers and actually needed a tracheotomy. He was hit by the stick of Chris Higgins and missed 15 games. A knee injury cost him seven games last season.
Don’t expect a force in the faceoff circle. Ribeiro took 808 draws last season and won just 42.2 percent of them. He was used as a second-line player in Dallas with ice time between 19:32 and 20:57 in his most recent four seasons. Do expect a reliable shootout star. Ribeiro is 16-for-45 since 2007-07 – a 35.6 percent rate. With every point critical as teams scratch and claw their way into the postseason that’s a big bonus.
Looking ahead to the postseason, Ribeiro has appeared in 42 Stanley Cup playoff games, but none since 2007-08. He did have three goals and 14 assists that year for the Stars, who reached the Western Conference finals.
McPhee told reporters he had been in touch with Dallas twice before on Ribeiro – most recently at the trade deadline. But the Stars were in the mix for a playoff spot themselves and that wasn’t the time to drop their second-line center for future prospects and draft picks.
The salary cap hit is $5 million with one year left on the contract so there is some risk here. Ribeiro will turn 33 on Feb. 10 so he has some miles on those skates. But with right wing Alex Semin unlikely to return – he is a free agent on July 1 – the Caps are adding a 60-point player for less money and flexible term if the move doesn’t work out. Semin made $6.7 million. There still appear to be holes at right wing on both the top line and the second line. But for now, Washington has addressed its biggest offseason need even before free agency begins July 1.
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