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.