The time of free agency is nearly upon us. As the Minnesota Wild's picture becomes a little clearer we are able to start speculating on moves to be made and free agents to be signed. One such soon-to-be free agent is Washington Capitals center Mike Ribeiro.
Ribeiro was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the 45th overall selection of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. After spending his first 5 seasons with the Canadiens, Ribeiro was traded to the Dallas Stars prior to the 2006-2007 season where he immediately became the Stars leading scorer, notching 59 points (18g/41a) in 81 games. The following season Ribeiro would see a sharp increase in production and post a career high 83 points, scoring 27 goals and notching 56 assists, all career high numbers for the veteran center.
Last summer Ribeiro was traded to the Washington Capitals and in this lockout shortened season his numbers did not seem to suffer, putting up 49 points in 48 games, which projected out to an 82 game season would give him 77 points. Ribeiro has been informed (much to the chagrin of his wife) he would not be offered an extension on his contract in Washington, which will make him a free agent this July 5th.
Ribeiro has become an offensive power-house, often times choosing to dish the puck rather than shoot and is excellent on the power play as well as in shootouts. He has patience with the puck as well as great vision and creativity on the ice. His defensive skill set however leaves a bit to be desired. He is under-sized for an NHL forward, standing at 6'0" and weighing in at just under 180 lbs.
With Ribeiro's most recent contract (5 years/25 million dollars) earning him 5 million/year, to get him on this squad would take a lot of fancy work from GMCF. With Vincent Lecavalier slated to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers at around 4.5 million/year we get a glimpse at the kind of money we may be looking at here.
I know what you're thinking Wilderness, why Ribeiro? As it stands right now it does not appear the Wild will be able to retain veteran center Matt Cullen, without a herculean effort. If the Wild were to put forth all the effort to keep Cullen, they could probably push a little further (maybe digging in the couch cushions for loose change) and make a push for Ribeiro as well.
With the cap hitting the deck this season, it is not a stretch to think GM's and owners around the league wont be throwing money at players like in seasons past. Ribeiro also indicated back in May he would be willing to sacrifice dollars for a long-term deal. Of course, in May he was also thinking the Capitals would be willing to offer him an extension. It is my thought though Ribeiro will be seeking somewhere between 3.5 - 4.5 million/year for 4-5 years. A difficult but not impossible task for the Wild to free up that kind of cash in the event theymake a push for Ribeiro.
But the Wild will be looking for defense, as our cupboard is full of forwards, and as the Wild move forward with the buyout of defenseman Tom Gilbert they may be behind the 8-ball a bit on the blue line. To find a serviceable bottom paring at defense should not be difficult though, and players could even come up from Iowa in a pinch. Not to mention who needs a 3rd D pairing when Ryan Suter will be on the ice for most of a game?
Upon Gilbert's buyout, the Wild's cap space will increase to 6.45 million dollars. This would still put us in a bit of a pinch this season after signing Jared Spurgeon amongst others, but over the next 4 to 5 seasons the Wilds cap space will grow with the loss of contracts (Dany Heatley being the elephant) as well as the increase we will see in the salary cap naturally.
It may be a bit of a pipe dream, but Ribeiro for the right price could fill a huge hole if the Wild are unable to keep Cullen on the roster. He also would offer a veteran presence on the 2nd line with a few more years to give than Cullen based on age alone. He wants to settle down, he wants to win and we have a lot of pieces in place to start making some serious runs at the cup in the coming years. If the Wild are able to move around some assets and free up enough money to sign Ribeiro and leave a little wiggle room under the cap, his addition could help the Wild bring the Stanley Cup back to its rightful home here in Minnesota.