Photo: Ronald Martinez

During the 2012 NHL Draft, the Washington Capitals sent a B-level prospect to the Dallas Stars for Mike Ribeiro. The then 33-year-old Ribs played one season for the Caps as the team’s second-line center. His overall possession numbers were disappointing, but hey, he collected power-play points like coins in Super Mario.

George McPhee offered Ribeiro a contract extension at the trade deadline that year. Ribeiro did not agree to the deal, so McPhee traded Filip Forsberg for a top six-depth in Martin Erat, and Ribeiro walked away for nothing on the first day of free agency before signing a ridiculous five-year deal with the Phoenix Coyotes.

Meanwhile, that B-level prospect that the Caps gave up was Cody Eakin, who has become quite a player in Dallas.

Eakin finished the season as the Stars second-line center, notching 16 goals and 19 assists in 81 games. He also drove play, finishing with a 51.2 shot-attempt percentage. If Eakin were on the Capitals, he would have been the team’s third best possession player according to

In the playoffs, Eakin has scored two big goals. In game four, he scored on a beautiful individual play, taking the puck hard to the net.

In game six, Eakin scored five-hole on a one-timer from the middle of the ice on a Stars power play. That was kind of wordy. My bad.

And though he made a bad read on Anaheim’s game-tying goal in game six, Eakin was on the ice taking the important face-offs for Dallas with the series on the line.

I’m not one to cry over spilled milk, but we should appreciate where we are two years later. This is the exact moment when I believe the Capitals began overestimating who they were as a team.

Instead of committing to a partial rebuild and recommitting to its youth, McPhee went all-in on this deal– trading for an aging veteran with declining possession– and giving up some of the team’s prospect forward depth. And just like Alex Semin before him, McPhee didn’t flip Ribeiro at the trade deadline when he knew he wouldn’t re-sign.

If you add in the Perreault and Forsberg deals, the Caps gave away precious players that would be going into their primes in the next several years, to load up on veterans who were not in the right times in their careers to help the team “win now.”

The Capitals did not win– barely qualifying for the playoffs last season— and not doing so this year. It suggests some more painful times are ahead, while we watch our prospects succeed elsewhere.

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  • Todd N

    hindsight is 20/20…at the time i think most of us welcomed the trade. Eakin didn’t do much when he was with us. Young and unproven. and we got a guy that can help us with the playoffs that year. we knew he was a rental. now the Erat trade….thats another story.

  • DCSportsDork

    Fantastic piece Ian!!! I have a few questions though that could make your piece more interesting. Does Boston regret trading Tyler Seguin for Louie Erickson and prospects? If not, wouldn’t you argue the Ribeiro trade and the Seguin trade were the exact same things, but unlike Boston, Washington had too many post 2010 transactions go against them (Scott Walker, Belanger, Erat, Hamrlik, Penner, Hannan, not signing Willie Mitchell, etc.)?

  • jephilip

    Keep in mind the trade was Eakin and a 2nd round pick (54th overall) for Ribeiro.

    Very good piece Ian as I was surprised how many times I heard Eakin’s name during the Stars/Ducks series. He was a pretty good prospect before he sort of faltered when he was going back and forth between Washington and Hershey. Hindsight is 20/20, but I think the key argument is that GMGM kept trying to find that magic veteran that was going to turn the Caps into Stanley Cup Champions, instead of developing the Caps young homegrown prospects.

  • JH

    Dude, we acquired Ribs because we had no flippin 2C – we were desperate for one and ended up with Ribs. And now with Oates and McPhee gone, we still don’t have a 2C – Grabo won’t sign. Hindsight is 20/20. It’s easy to say this:

    “McPhee didn’t flip Ribeiro at the trade deadline when he knew he wouldn’t re-sign.”

    But you’re assuming there were customers who wanted/needed him.

    This is Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst. We had a surplus of prospects. You trade some away to make a run if you need to. Argh.

  • Sara

    I was not a Ribeiro fan when we got him….even less of one when we parted ways. We should have left him in Dallas! As far as Eakin goes- It’s hard to know what kind of player a young guy is going to turn out to be. Who’s to say he would have done as well under the Caps coaching staff? We’ll never know. Excited to move forward and see positive changes in the organization! 🙂 On a side note: Was more than ready to see him go, but thought McPhee’s interview with the press was uber classy.

  • I’m sure Boston doesn’t. Boston traded Seguin basically because of maturity issues. They didn’t want to sink money into a guy they didn’t necessarily believe would make the most of his talent.

    I don’t think those trades are comparable. Seguin was still a young, blossoming player. Ribeiro, in my opinion, was not.

    I think Greg Wyshynski summed up some of GMGM’s problems pretty well over the weekend:

    “Need a playoff scorer? Here’s Joel Ward. Need a veteran center? Here’s Jason Arnott. Not going to the net enough? Mike Knuble will. Need a hard-nosed guy with a Cup ring in his resume? Take our money, Troy Brouwer.

    It was all adding details rather than examining the thesis, all window dressing instead of checking the foundation. It was like treating a cancer patient a Percocet – temporary relief that did nothing to address the fact that, well, they had cancer.”–identity-crisis-210841622.html

  • “we had no flippin 2C – we were desperate for one ”

    Should we have been?

  • “Eakin didn’t do much when he was with us.”

    He had 8 points in 30 games when he was 20 years old with Washington. He also had an impressive resume in Juniors. It seemed pretty obvious to me he was going to have a long NHL career.

  • JH

    I’ve never been a fan of MP. And PS: According to Extraskater, Eakin was a -6.4 CF% Relative to team when player not on ice in 5 on 5. So there.

  • In the playoffs – small sample size. +0.7% in 81 regular season games. So there. Haha.

  • Lawrence

    A lot of caps fans forgot about this trade. When I brought it up to a few people last year, they totally forgot it even happened. It was a bad decision, no question. Ribs did perform quite well, but without being sure he would re-sign with the caps it was a risky trade that ended badly for us.

    The part that bothers me the most about losing prospects like Eakin and Forsberg, is that the trade didn’t return us the thing this team lacks the most, defense. Even if you packaged Eakin, Forsberg, Perrault, or maybe another combination, that could easily land you a 1-2 defenseman. The trades didn’t address the issues we’ve had.

  • sheena dunn

    Did we already forget about the Red Rally Balloon??

  • Tim

    It was actually a good trade, even in hindsight. Eakin didn’t have a spot here – MP was a better center, and the 2 of them were the 3C candidates. So in exchange for a player they didn’t need, the Caps filled their largest roster hole – I would do it again.

  • Shaun Phillips

    And just think, we could have the giant mice holding up pictures of wings.

  • Jonathan

    The trade clearly favored the Stars in the end, but I don’t blame McPhee for making it. Ribiero performed beyond what we even expected from him. And McPhee was right not to give him a huge contract. Yeah, we’d have Eakin still had we not made the trade, but there was a collective pressure on McPhee to do exactly what he did. So, in essence, yeah, maybe it’s not a great trade in retrospect, but that’s not terribly relevant. It was a good short-term acquisition.

  • I think Eakin may be a legit solid player. He wasn’t a drag on the puck during the regular season.

  • Not to mention that Perreault is now anchoring Anaheim’s 2nd line. Talk about a bad taste in the mouth …

  • It seems to me that it’s the job of management to know what kind of a player a young guy will turn out to be. Maybe we fans don’t know … but that’s what the scouts and management get paid to know. They knew and just traded him away anyway.

  • “It was a good short-term acquisition.”

    I think it felt that way initially when we made the deal – totally. His boxcar stats were pretty good too (point per game player) – but they were built on his power play numbers (27 of his 49 pts were on the power play). Possession wise and at even strength, Ribeiro made the Caps a worse team (45.3%).

  • Stevarooni

    Young Washington Capital Cody Eakin was earning more points per game than Knuble and Ward (plus Halpern, Beagle, and Hendricks) in very limited minutes/games with no prev NHL experience .

    Management should have known when they decided to bring Ribeiro in that if Ribs had a good year they wouldn’t be able to re-sign him and if he had a bad year they certainly would not. So they should have known they were giving up an NHL center for a rental. I started [whining] voicing my displeasure with the trade when they let Ribs walk.

    Still, sometimes a trade doesn’t work out in your favor, oh well. What makes it notably bad for me is that they then turn around and give away Perreault.

  • Stevarooni

    He certainly isn’t the Second Coming tho. Eakin was largely responsible for a costly SHG in this series. I believe it was in Game 2.

    He carried the puck halfway into the zone while being engaged and instead of passing, decided to press ahead with a really ill-conceived, poorly aimed spinorama shot that missed the net and led directly to an odd-man rush/score the other way.

    Dude is small and still relatively unknown. Have to figure teams will learn how to play him, like everybody else. Then lets look at his numbers again.

  • JH

    I can’t out-fancystat you guys. Sigh. Well, I think if you criticize the trade you have to consider the alternatives available at the time. I still think it was defensible.

  • Barrett

    I like Cody Eakin, I looked up him and Matty P’s season while watching this series (along with Forsberg). It wasn’t so much that individually it was a bad trade, but the three trades combined decimated the depth of the Capitals down the middle. I don’t think Eakin has the same impact Ribeiro had if that trade isn’t made. I’d also rather have Grabovski as my 2nd line center over Eakin, Perreault or Forsberg. The problem is either of those three guys SHOULD be centering Ward and Chimera on the third line, not Fehr. Oh well.

  • Freedoooom

    35 point center. LOL those grow on trees.

    Ribeiro was a PPG player with a lot more primary assists than Backstrom.

  • Fletch

    I view the Fleischmann trade the same way

  • Kyle Odaynik
  • sigh

    Doesn’t the recent years of throwing whatever at the wall and seeing if it sticks just highlight organizational dysfunction to the top (e.g., Redskins)? Dick Patrick is apparently made of teflon. Over evaluation of the current roster and legit chances of deep playoff runs, plus the undying dogmatic belief that middle of the road, bargain goaltenders and D gets it done. Mortgaging on top of bad mortgages, it was bound to come apart at some point.

    At the least, Eakin carried the puck well something the Caps overall do terribly. Right now, what does Mojo give you that Eakin won’t at $0.25 on the dollar? More over, why doesn’t the NHL function more like the NBA in cap terms with sign and trades. Getting Ribs (or Grabo, or Morrison, or Nylander 2.0) for one year was not going to make or break the conference finals. I don’t think you need foresight or hindsight making the trade, just better evaluation of risk vs. reward. Same for Erat/Latta-Forsberg. I’m not losing sleep over losing MP.

  • Uhhh no shit. I could’ve told you this the day it happened.

  • Oh my. Are we a Ribs loyalist?

  • Mike

    No it was a good trade, caps were close to being a final four club and filled biggest roster hole. Who knows how oates wouldve ruined eakin

  • Mike Logan

    I’d add, without a blinding burst and/or great awareness – not what you love to see in smallish Cs.

  • Eric Schulz

    I WHOLE-HEARTEDLY disagree. We gave up a not *quite* NHL-ready prospect for a proven 2nd line C, something we’d needed for a decade. It was a very good trade for both teams, really. If not for Ribeiro, we almost certainly miss the playoff last year. Not resigning him kinda sucked, but I’d much rather have Grabovski anyway; he’s younger, and at this stage of his career, I think he’s better. We absolutely could not have kept both. Had we not made the Forsberg trade maybe we could’ve, and it’s easy to argue that we needed the center depth… but a) we’d have been better off keeping Perreault instead (so, so much cheaper), and b) again, a great argument that the Forsberg trade was a catastrophe, not the Eakin trade.
    And if you want to argue that you wish we *would’ve* missed the playoffs last year so that Oates and GMGM would’ve been fired earlier, that’s just a dumb, dumb argument. You wish that our staff sucked more so they wouldn’t stick around as long? Dumb.
    And finally.. if we had Eakin right now, where does he fit? Where does he slot in? Does he even get the 7 minutes per game that Wilson got last year?

  • Eric Schulz

    “Reloading” isn’t an all-in or all-out move. We could’ve flipped Eakin, as we did, and still kept Forsberg and Perreault… we *should’ve* done that.. and Ribeiro was a great player to have for us that one year, then we got younger and better by essentially flipping him for Grabovski.

  • CJ Easton

    In fairness he has a point. Comparisons with Matty P are skewed a bit since he is centering the second line of the best team in the West and who are significantly better than the Stars.

    That said the Stars are, for that same reason, a much better comparison to the Capitals by terms of team productivity. A 39 point center is far from earth shattering. I’m not a Ribs loyalist but while he may be in decline while Eakin is growing for % numbers there was little question then as to who would help the team win more then. It will be a while yet before Eakin even matches Ribs’ numbers let alone surpasses. We lost youth (and Cap space) for a better player that year.

  • GetchaGrubbOn

    something something something give young talent the opportunity to actually develop something something

  • GetchaGrubbOn

    I have a fear that we are going to see something similar happen to Wilson down the road.

  • xutocoga

    this issue is not trading them away when they could contribute to the caps. the issue is trading them away and getting virtually nothing in return.

  • Rhino40

    Grabo > Ribeiro, if for no other reason that Grabo is not a hothead prone to taking untimely UC penalties.

  • Adam Schwager

    It feels like that Fleishmann-Hannan trade all over again

  • Rhino40

    kept trying to find that magic veteran that was going to turn the Caps into Stanley Cup Champions

    You mean, like Guerin did for the Pens or Hossa did for the Hawks?

    Yet another case of “things that produce positive results elsewhere in the NHL somehow don’t work for the Caps”

  • “caps were close to being a final four club ”

    I believed that then. But when looking at the analytics now, they were not close and not much was going to reverse that.