When the Coyotes missed the playoffs just one season after their incredible playoff run to the Western Conference Final in 2012, something had to change. By building the team from the net out, general manager Don Maloney was left with one piece to his new team- a player to light a fire under their offense. With Sean Burke headlining the goaltending talent and a group of core defensemen led by Keith Yandle and Zbynek Michalek, it seemed like the only thing holding the team back was a consistent scoring line.
On July 2, 2013, Mike Ribeiro became an unrestricted free agent with the Washington Capitals. Three days later, he he found a new home.
On July 5, Ribeiro inked a four year, $22 million deal with the Coyotes- and it looked like the ‘Yotes had found the player they needed. After scoring 49 points in 48 games with the Capitals in 2012, Ribeiro was the piece of the puzzle that the Coyotes offense needed.
Considering that Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett and Mike Ribeiro had spent three seasons together with the Dallas Stars, I would say that question seemed like one with an obvious answer. In fact, the Coyotes organization felt that having Tippett and Ribeiro reunited once again would only benefit his on ice performance and improve the chemistry of the team overall.
Now, the Coyotes were aware of Ribeiro’s off ice behavior during his NHL career, but ultimately felt that, by 33, Ribeiro would have a different sense of self discipline than what he had in the past. In his early years up in Montreal, Ribeiro was noted as having a lack of motivation and work ethic which would ultimately lead to him being traded to the Dallas Stars in 2006. Who can forget his 2010 arrest either? A small altercation between his friends at a sushi bar would unfortunately land him with a public intoxication charge. But again, the past is the past and the Coyotes were ready to push forward and go back to the previous year’s winning ways with Mike Ribeiro as their first line center.
For the beginning of the season, the addition of Ribeiro was beneficial to the Coyotes. The Coyotes finished the season ranked number one in the western conference in powerpkay effectiveness with help from Ribeiro. Number 63 was very good at setting his fellow skaters up from behind the net and notching an assist. His sleek puck handling skills made it possible for him to find the open man from anywhere on the ice. He also had a few good shootout moves as well:
So what went wrong? What led to his contract buyout this summer?
Well, I guess for some people, its hard to break old habits. Behavioral issues began to arise during the second half of the season, which ultimately affected his level of play on the ice. (Sounds like another Kyle Turris situation, but we won’t get into that right now.)
Now, the term “behavioral issues” seems kind of bland, so Craig Morgan of Fox Sports Arizona cleared things up for us. Morgan reported that “Ribeiro was late for practices, missed meetings, missed buses, and even engaged in a shouting match with Tippett in the locker room after a game in Colorado.” Along with marital issues, Ribeiro’s head was just not in the game and according to the numbers, it showed. Ribeiro managed to put up 47 points in 80 games with the Coyotes in the 2013-2014 season, which for a player being paid $5.5 million a year, is not a lot.
Here are his point totals by month for the Coyotes:
October: 10 points (14 games)
November: 8 points (12 games)
December: 11 points (13 games)
January: 8 points (15 games)
February: 4 points (6 games)
March: 4 points (13 games)
April: 2 Points (7 games)
As you can see, he ends up falling off starting around January. First line centers do not score four points in a span of thirteen games, especially if they’re being paid $5.5 million a year. Don Maloney knew exactly what had to be done.
On June 27, 2014; Mike Ribeiro was bought out of his contract with the Arizona Coyotes. What came as a shock to some was not at all surprising for the Coyotes management. In fact, Don Maloney knew he had to deal away his former center right when the season ended.
So what does this mean for the Coyotes? Well, for the next six seasons, the Coyotes must pay Ribeiro $1.94 million per season, ultimately freeing up $3.5 million to spend on something else.
As of now, the Coyotes replaced Ribeiro with Sam Gagner from a trade with Tampa Bay. With the money they freed up by buying out Ribeiro’s contract and the fact that the Lightning must retain one third of Gagner’s salary, the Coyotes were able to afford him for $3.33 million. So what happened to Ribeiro? The former center of the Arizona Coyotes ended up signing a contract with the Nashville Predators for one year, $1.05 million. After the conflicts last season, Ribeiro is ready to get back on the ice and finally put the past behind him. He wants to show the league that he can still play.