The Washington Capitals have a couple of free agency questions to answer in the coming weeks/months. The big one, that doesn’t seem as big anymore because we seem to know what’ll happen, is what to do with Mike Ribeiro.
The signs are strongly pointing to his release at this point, and I think that is a good thing. Ribeiro is 33 years old and trying to lock up one last big contract. Good for him. I would love for the Caps to be able to sign him to a more manageable deal in the 2-3 year range, but, especially considering the points he put up this year, it’s not hard to imagine that someone will be willing to shell out some big bucks for him.
Ribeiro was finally a beneficial solution to the second line center problem of the Caps. He anchored the power play with Backstrom, and he picked up the offensive slack in the beginning of the year when the team was struggling. Most memorably, Ribeiro setup Green for the overtime winner in Game 2 of the first round against New York, and also netted the overtime winner in game 5 of that series. The problem was those were the only two points of the playoffs for Mike.
Ribeiro has a history of being an agitator both of the opposing team and the referees. While an edge is a nice thing to have to your game, Ribeiro is often a prime example of when keeping it real goes wrong. He often drew unsportsmanlike penalties from yapping at the refs, and he also fell victim to opponents baiting him into retaliation penalties. These two negatives don’t impact your team well. The Rangers put a muzzle on Ribeiro in the playoffs save for his two big points, and the refs are people you always want on your side. The gripe the Caps had about officiating bias can definitely be attributed to Ribeiro to a certain degree.
I think letting Ribeiro walk might temporarily leave a hole in Washington’s roster, but I think the combination of his age and attitude make him unworthy of the salary cap hit that his contract will provide.
More importantly, and maybe this is free agency buzz getting the best of me, Vincent Lecavalier has been bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. A now former captain, Lecavalier embodies all the positive attributes that Ribeiro lacks as a veteran leader, and he would be a perfect candidate (for the right price, obviously) for being D.C.’s second-line pivot. Right now he seems to have strong ties to Montreal, but I can and will dream. With the 32 million and change that Tampa will be paying Lecavalier for the next 14 years, hopefully money won’t be the deciding factor in where he goes. Also, hopefully, Vinny will decide that Washington is a better contender than Montreal… (Regardless of whether that’s true or not.)
Let’s pray that come October, Lecavalier will be rocking the right shade of red.