Free agency: Major moves shake up Caps roster
From the time the Capitals acquired him from the Dallas Stars at the 2012 NHL draft, Mike Ribeiro made it clear he wanted to make Washington his home for the long term.
He found a house in McLean, Va., enrolled his three children in school and helped coach his two sons’ hockey teams during the lockout.
So when he put up one of the best offensive seasons of his career – 49 points and a league-high 21 power-play assists in 48 games – Ribeiro thought he had done enough to remain with the Capitals for the rest of his playing career.
Instead, the Capitals were unwilling to meet Ribeiro’s contract demands and on Friday, less than an hour into free agency, he signed a four-year, $22 million contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, well above the reported three-year, $14 million offered by the Caps back in March.
"I was surprised," Ribeiro told reporters after Friday’s signing. “I moved there, moved my family too. My thinking was, if I had a great season they'd keep me there, or find a way to keep me there, but obviously we couldn't. Once I confirmed they couldn't re-sign me, my first option was Phoenix. And that's what we went for."
To be fair, the Caps would have had difficulty fitting Ribeiro's annual $5.5 million salary into the $8.5 million of space they currently have, especially since they still need to sign defenseman Karl Alzner and left wing Marcus Johansson.
Still, Ribeiro said his first option was to stay in Washington and that did not change until it was clear the Caps would not meet his demands.
Ribeiro told reporters he had real concerns about the Coyotes moving to Seattle, but when a new lease deal was reached with the city of Glendale that will keep the Coyotes in Phoenix for at least five more years, Ribeiro decided to make Arizona his new home.
"I'm trying to be stable somewhere for a while, that's important," Ribeiro said. "The fact that they confirmed they'd stay there for a few years, that's a good thing. Obviously that was a big part."
Dave Tippett is another reason Ribeiro chose Phoenix. When it appeared likely the Coyotes would stay put, Tippett made it clear he would also remain with the team. Ribeiro enjoyed three of his best NHL seasons under Tippet when they were both in Dallas.
"I think having the trust of your coach and having a coach that believes in you and will give you an opportunity to do well or put you in a position to succeed," Ribeiro said, "I think that was my No. 1 goal.
“To go somewhere knowing the coach and knowing a little bit of what they were looking for and what my role was going to be and being comfortable, and being able to communicate with the coach. He's done a great job there in Phoenix. He knows what he can get from me and I know what he wants and I'm ready to work for that."