Say sayonara to the swag. (Photo credit: Chris Gordon)

Renaud Lavoie of RDS broke the news Sunday night that the Capitals will allow Mike Ribeiro to go to the open market on July 5. No deal will be struck with DC’s second line center, and that’s a smart move by the Capitals front office. Not as smart as trading his rights away — like they did with Semyon Varlamov, a trade for a pick that eventually turned into Martin Erat— but it’s still pretty nice.

Not everyone will agree with that. A big chunk of RMNB readers have been clamoring for a new deal for Ribeiro ever since the trade deadline, and Yahoo Sports’ Harrison Mooney’s takeaway from Chuck Gormley’s profile of possible replacements was that Capitals really should have re-signed him. But to keep Ribeiro in Washington would have been to violate one of Ted Leonsis’ own rules for smart management:

“Signing long-term, expensive deals for vets is very risky.”

According to the Washington Post, Ribeiro was seeking a five-year contract, one that would have brought him to the age of 38. Exiting one of the best seasons of his career, one might think he was in strong bargaining position and the Capitals might seek to retain the team’s second highest scorer. But that would ignore some very compelling mitigating factors– ones that probably explain why a deal could not be reached. While there are a bunch of these reasons, two stand out: 1) The salary cap is constricting, and 2) Mike Ribeiro probably won’t be so good next season.

Geoff Thompson did yeoman’s work summarizing Mike Ribeiro’s season over at Japers’ Rink, and I recommend you read that item. In short, Mike Ribeiro was particularly unstudly at even strength, sucking down Alex Ovechkin, who only succeeded once he broke away from Ribeiro’s line. Ribeiro feasted on the power play, scoring 6 of his 13 goals thanks to an absurdly high shooting percentage, one that he probably can’t maintain next year– in DC or elsewhere.

Contracts should be based off of projected future performance, and all the things that made Ribeiro great last season also hint at a looming decline. In fact, Ribeiro’s underlying stats show a disheartening trend. Here is Hockey Abstract’s Robert Vollman‘s usage chart for Ribs’ last four seasons:



Each year, Ribeiro’s possession has gotten worse — from the smiley-face-inducing, big, blue bubble of 2008-09; to some meh smallish bubbles; to the big scary red bubble of 2013. And as Neil Greenberg pointed out in the Washington Post, Mike Ribeiro’s age will play an even larger factor in his diminishing skills in the next five years.

CapGeek says the Caps have $5.7M of salary space left for 2013-14. That’s before Marcus Johansson and Karl Alzner get paid (I’m assuming, sadly, that Matt Hendricks will move on). I’m glad I don’t have to try to make those numbers work for Mike Ribeiro, and I hope GMGM didn’t lose to much sleep over it after he considered those fancystats above.

McPhee and the Caps could have glimpsed at Ribeiro’s goals and assist count, considered their weakness at the center position, and then thrown wads of money at Mike Ribeiro. Instead, it appears they thought pretty carefully before making the decision to let Mike Ribeiro go to the open market. It’s a bold move for a team already light on top-6 forward talent and facing what’s shaping up to be a very competitive division next season, but ultimately it was the smart one.

So 2013-14 will be the year of the Great Matty P Second Line Center experiment. Game on.

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  • Blank

    Actually makes no sense. The Caps need a number 2. They had one. GMGM made a huge mistake here. Ovi will break down before Ribs does. This is not a player who takes huge hits. Vinny L had worse stats at 33 yrs old and now he’s wanted? come on.

  • Awwwww mannnnnnn.

    So you’re telling me you don’t want to throw millions of dollaz at an ageing vet, whose last season was most likely an abberration and is likely on the downslope of his career?

    That doesn’t make any sense what so ever. Ribz can haz all teh millions.

  • leaveittobeagle

    Signing Ribeiro to what he wanted would have handicapped this team
    for years. Caps simply cannot keep signing players for more than they
    are worth. I don’t think it was an issue with amount, but with length. But he should have foreseen this.

    missed a great chance to retool at trade deadline. Instead he traded
    away a young talent and put the team in a salary crunch. Just think what
    Caps could have traded up for or got with 2 first rounders this year
    (especially if they missed the playoffs), and the young talent that
    would be knocking on the door in the next two years. What a fuck up on
    his part.

    At least the draft went well, I think.

  • yv

    Because of contract terms demanded by Ribs, it seems that it is the only choice for GMGM to let him go. 3 years for 14M$ was not a bad initial offer to Ribs. In current NHL there are practically zero number of 3+ years-contracts given to 33+ year old players. Dman M. Streit with unorthodox Flyers GM would be probably the first and only one who got such contract. Plus desire by Ribs to stay in one place practically means a non-movement clause, which is usually a no-no for GMs. However, now Caps have a big void in second center. Hopefully, more flexible Lecavalier will agree to join Caps, otherwise improved MP85, who seems learnt a lot from Ribs game, will fill the place until better times.

  • Hockeynightincanada

    So essentially we escape overpaying Mike Ribeiro and in turn, McPhee will just overpay someone else.

  • Yeah, I’m of two minds about that point. I wanted Ribs traded for a premium at the deadline because I was worried the team couldn’t make the playoffs and because Ribs wouldn’t really help the Caps.

    I was wrong about the Caps not making the playoffs, but after the deadline, Ribeiro had just two goals. The Caps could dumped him, improved the team, and still made the playoffs. That woulda been sweet.

  • Well, I don’t agree with you about much, but I definitely agree that Mike Ribeiro was number 2.

  • Chip

    I understand the arguments both for and against letting him go, but with no one in place to replace him – it leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. Especially considering Ribeiro scores 50+ points every year. We’re not going to get anywhere near that production from Perreault (sadly).


  • Hockeynightincanada

    Yep. For the first time since Knuble, McPhee actually does one little thing of significance to help Ovie and Backstrom, and it’s out of the door. Those two aren’t getting any younger, and McPhee’s bad decisions seem to be haunting us one by one.

  • djlotus

    The financial disaster this team is is because of GMGM. And to top his shit “team building” he drafts a guy in the first round who will probably not play for the big club. Neither of the teams two most glaring weaknesses were addressed in the draft and can’t be addressed via free agency without making big roster adjustments.

    He sucks.

  • Agreed. Let’s not forget too, the last two seasons McPhee failed to trade TWO pending UFA’s at the deadline who would have brought in draft picks and prospects (Semin and Ribeiro). It’s not good asset management.

  • Well, no. I think he already accomplished that feat. He traded a fantastic prospect (value, energy, versatility) for an aging winger and is taking on his $4 mil+ deal.

  • WisconsinCapsFan

    No surprise. Too much $, to long a deal. But boy does this team have some glaring holes. As bad as that Erat trade looked earlier, it looks even worse looking at the salary cap and our lack of centers now. GMGM let the pressure get to him at the deadline. I love matty P, primarily for his great celebrations and scoring goals with his face, but I don’t think anyone will be saying, “Ribero, who?” At least our back-up goalie is making more than our starter? Ugh, is the KHL season over? #freeevgeny

  • GMRW

    Definitely should’ve traded him at deadline for picks, but there’s still a chance he returns if the market gets flooded with buyouts and he reconsiders, though I don’t want him to. His early season success covered up some of the dumb penalties he takes with his mouth and i still think his presence is in part why the playoff penalties were so skewed. Plus, with his points coming on the PP, i dont think they’ll be missed that much (Mojo or MP85 probly can fill most of the void). My only big concern with losing him is he was KEY on PP Zone entry (no stats, just eyeball test). I can’t remember them ever being so successful at zone entries, and that does play a big role in getting those huge PP #’s.

  • I think Kuznetsov can eventually replace him in the top-six. And it’s good to keep some roster flexibility until they see what they have in him. Also, I wouldn’t sleep on Perreault — and even Laich in that center position. Both looked good in Oates’ system last year. I’m not saying they will put up as many points, but as long as they aren’t the albatross that brings the entire grouping down, Erat and Brouwer should still make it a strong and potent line.

  • Ralph

    The Caps need to be better at ES play in order to hang with the Bostons, Chicagos, L.As, and Pittsburghs of the league. Ribeiro until 2013 was treading water at ES; this year, he got outscored, and it doesn’t look like a fluke. Think about it–do you want your second line to be outscored at ES? That’s pretty embarrassing.

    The Capitals don’t have the wing depth that, say, Chicago has, in order to cover up a weak 2C, so with limited cap room, they need someone who is a reliable ES player on his own. Lecavalier isn’t superb, but he’s better than Ribeiro for sure.

  • KareeLyn

    Since I don’t actually own or run a team, I have no real incentive to have useful opinions. So here is mine…. I’m so sad to see Ribz go!!!!!! He was a treat to watch and had that Je ne sais quoi that the bubble graph simply can’t capture, from what I presume to be a lot of experience in bar fights. Loved having Ribeiro in DC and will miss him dearly. Not looking forward to playing against him, wherever he may land. Plus, Ribz and I have the same birthday. There went my joint party idea…

  • Buck

    Burakovksy definitely has the talent to play for the caps he used to be considered a top 10 pick

  • dylan wheatley

    awww come on guys. mcphee’s clearly under a huge amount of pressure from uncle ted to make sure the caps make the playoffs every year. he’s done nothing but show himself to be a shrewd and conniving asset manager everywhere else. trading away ribs and semin were clearly just not options for him at the time, since trading them would be saying “we’re not making the playoffs”, which he’s not allowed to say.

  • brian!

    Really the only complaint I have about this course of action is it means we dealt a promising young prospect in Cody Eakin for essentially a year-long rental. That being said, I hope Perreault flourishes in the 2C role

  • Pat Magee

    Vinny would be perfect

  • SwedishClusterF

    I remember fondly the early days of the lockout-shortened season. When Ovechkin was sucking and Ribeiro was rocking. People were crying out for the team to put Ovi with Ribeiro. I pointed out at the time that until Ovi got settled at RW all he was likely to do was pull Riberio down and then we’d have nothing going (except for Brouwer, who was playing well/scoring from early on).

    Ovi really sucked at the beginning of the season, but Ribeiro did really not. And Ovi was sucking just fine on his own without being teamed with Ribeiro. They did finally get put together after a number of games to try to spur him. I don’t know if he hurt Ribs’ game any when they were put together, I don’t think so. But Ovi eventually did learn to play right wing didn’t he? And then he started scoring. I’m not sure who was the lucky assist-recipient when he got locked in. But anyway, I do remember that the Caps did at one point score a ton of goals when Ovi was put on a line with Hendricks moved to 1C. Strangely I’ve see no calls for Hendricks to be the new 2C savior we’ve all been praying for, I’m not sure why.

    The first visible thing I’m probably going to miss about Ribs is his ability to enter the zone on the PP with control. Nobody else on the team could do it with any consistency. I have specific memories of Backstrom totally not succeeding, but circling back eating clock as if the opponent had cleared the puck. But it is true if – theoretically – you don’t get any PP’s called for you against the Rangers at MSG in the playoffs, then maybe that skill isn’t quite as valuable there. Still, those PP points weren’t nothing, they were greatly responsible for allowing the team to get to the post-season. (Where the regular season PP success became a distant memory to the resounding: “How could this team that barely made the playoffs greatly by virtue of the PP lose in the first round?!!”)

    Ribeiro’s PP entry and puck distribution are based on instinct/hockey
    sense, not speed, not strength, not number of ear-piercings. And so such attributes likely won’t suffer the ravages of age quite so heavily as if speed, or hitting, or fighting were his core attributes.

    The Caps are a worse team today with a ’13-14 roster that has no guarantees other than Ribeiro (and Hendricks) will be free agents. If the argument is that the organization can suffer a couple of bad years until the cavalry comes, then they should have tanked when they had the chance: let Ribs leave at the deadline, and pick up a top 3-5 draft pick that could actually see a little fill-in duty this season. If the argument is that Ribeiro is going to suck in 4-5 years, then I don’t see why the organization is creaming to be in the exclusive Just As Old Lecavalier Consideration Club.

    I think Just As Old Lecavalier does have a higher ceiling, but based on the type of game he plays, his fall from grace with age will be a bit more unpleasant for the winning suitor over time relative to Ribs. Plus we know how Ribeiro plays with the Caps versus any other scab or aging veteran the Caps bring in.

    I’m still trying to figure out how we’d pay for Lecavalier if we don’t have the funds for Ribeiro. Granted Riberio is old smelly trash and Lecavalier is the missing piece to sweet Stanley Cup glory, but still.

    I was born a Ramblin’ Man…and now it’s time for leaving. I hope you’ll understand that I was born a ramblin’ man

  • Matt Root

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    This should be spammed at GMGM everyday. Letting Ribs go is fine but maintain the logic. High value, long term deals is bad but Erat is a good investment? I get he only has two years but at 4.5mill per? Especially at the cost of a highly rated prospect?? GMGM has seemingly spent these years grossly over-paying mediocre players built to make the playoffs but not much more. If you’re feeling saucy, go to and see what I mean by overpaying for mediocraty and try not to let bias get in the way. I love Brooks, but 4.5m? Wardo at 3? And the obvious Schultz and Erskine contracts as well (Although John’s isn’t SO bad but still… use some consistency in that department)

  • bskillet

    Yep not bad at all, Ribs is awesome but his #’s will probably decline and his hairline temper we don’t need. I wouldn’t suggest we go after Vinnie either, we have 4 hopefully good players down stairs that will be coming up soon and a little cash with Shultz gone as well. If he is going to go after a veteran Briere would be the guy. Interesting week.

  • RESmith

    So let me see…. We gave up a solid prospect in Cody Eakin to get essentially a year long rent-a-player. I get the logic that you have to trade talent sometimes to help put your team over the top. But. BUT! We were entering an uncertain season that almost all had prognosticated was going to be shortened by the lockout. Not to mention that we were also entering it with a first year head coach who needed time to implement his system and acclimate to his players. Seems like an odd time to “put all the chips” down. If we were to have bitten the bullet and gone with the talent we had, then last season would have made more sense. If we had, we would have been in better shape this summer. Instead, we got the same finish as we always have albeit short of two good talents for the future.

    It might be the right move now, but, that being said, our management lately seems to be doing an about-face every summer from the direction they pursued the summer before. It doesn’t make sense and it is getting old. I’m also tired it getting sold to us fans as being consistent. No fan likes to see their team not in a position to compete for a championship, but, again, if there was a season where it could been stomached, last season was the most tolerable.

  • Charlie Bobby

    I’m not gonna act like I know hockey or really sports all that well as someone who is the head of an entire hockey club, but, there’s more to it than just numbers and how they look as a prospect and what their stats say. They have to be a piece of a puzzle in a style of play with teammates and coaches that have actual emotions and feelings and preferences and dislikes.

    Also, I’m not going to act like I knew better looking back two months ago.. It’s called hindsight for a reason.

    I’m not necessarily saying I’m calling people out and disagreeing with them, but I felt the need to take the other side for the hell of it.

  • AL

    I think you’re over simplifying that a bit and leaning negative. You could just as easily say he traded an unknown prospect for a proven top six NHLer with very solid stats who fills a defensively solid and possession positive role on the second line, and who is not a one year rental.

    I was as eager as anyone to see what Forsberg could have done for us, but to act like Erat is not a very solid commodity for an unknown commodity of Forsberg is to sell Erat short. Again, I liked Forsberg’s potential, but he was still just that: potential. I don’t want to waste any more of Ovechkin’s best years in our window, and you have to give something to get something.

  • djlotus

    He was drafted last year by the KHL. He said he would consider playing in the CHL. Sounds to me like one of those guys who will go elsewhere to play of he doesn’t make the big club as soon as he wants to. Worries me a bit.

  • CDizz

    If we can’t land Lecavalier, this move might not seem as smart down the line…unless Kuzy ends up being God.

  • I really disagree. Kuzya really isn’t god and Vinny probably ain’t coming to DC, but Ribeiro wasn’t really helping the team at even strength. Consider that Ovi could’ve lapped the field in goals if he played with Backy all year.

  • SwedishClusterF

    It’s just little things like this that give me pause:

    NHL Goal-scoring leaders:
    1 Ovechkin (50% of all his goals were earned on PP)
    2 (34%)
    3 (32%)
    4 (30%)
    5 (34%)
    6 (09%)
    7 (17%)
    8 (40%)
    9 (36%)
    10 (14%)

    NHL PP Assist Leaders:
    1 Ribeiro (58% of assists earned on PP)

    We can say Ribeiro’s numbers will go down, sure. But a few months ago there were charts and graphs telling us why Ovi’s lackluster scoring was the natural result of aging. I’m just curious to see if his goals/point totals be closer to this past year, or the previous two. Without Ribeiro.

    I do accept that he is leaving, cap space, 5 yr contract for an old coot, etc, I just have questions about what that does to the team beyond looking to prospects in the next few years. But we are going to start seeing them getting answered in a few months.

  • First, awesome pull on that data. Good work.

    “t a few months ago there were charts and graphs telling us why Ovi’s lackluster scoring was the natural result of aging.”

    That’s not entirely true. The party line has always been that Ovi’s decline was the result of a) shooting less, b) less ice time, c) the team’s lowered offensive priorities, d) inferior teammates, e) tactical adjustments by defense, and f) aging.

    No serious geek is going to say that f) aging caused the decline alone.

    Ovi wouldn’t have scored at his post-3/14 pace if he were with Backy all season– positional and tactical adjustments also were a factor in his improvement– but he would’ve done better than he did.

  • Ray

    We don’t have anyone to fill the second center position. Johansson is a fail, Perreault has not proven to be offensively consistent, and finally, George Mcphee is not a good GM. The Capitals will not be effective until Mcphee is replaced. Anyone who thinks that he is a good GM, just look at his track record of renting players and then screwing them over in the off season. I love the Caps, but if I were an NHL player I would be very apprehensive about playing for the club with Mcphee guiding the ship

  • SwedishClusterF

    Yep, once in a blue moon I can rub two stats together to support some POV or another. Thanks for putting up with me.

    I was going to continue ranting about the best player for Ovi to suck with when transitioning to RW and a new system, but that becomes pointless. If we want 5v5/Playoff goals from Ovi, Backstrom is the best choice.

    But then who is at 2C again…?
    (Rhetorical/not Ribeiro)

  • I say Perreault, whose underlying numbers have been really strong lately.

  • JasonRoseEh

    The Caps need a center who can score goals, that isn’t Ribiero. They are in dire, dire need of secondary scoring and as good as Ribs was last year, he can’t score goals. Really thought we’d push harder for Vincent Lecavelier, who was a steal for Philly IMO.

    More importantly, he wanted far too much money, but I can’t really blame the guy for that either.

  • JasonRoseEh

    Ribiero is a toss up, so I give GMGM a pass there, but not on Semin. We knew what we would get come playoff time and there were teams that wanted him as well, nothing happened and we got nothing back.

    Chalk that up to another bad move by GMGM along with the Erat trade.

  • JasonRoseEh

    Unproven yes, but alluring enough to bring something better than Erat, who did nothing upon his arrival.

    He could have been a carrot to dangle for Bobby Ryan this year.