When the NHL free agency period opened at noon Friday, Mike Ribeiro's first choice was to remain with the Washington Capitals.
In his first -- and what ultimately turned out to be his only -- season in Washington. Ribeiro was a key cog, finishing second on the team with 49 points, including a league-high 27 on the Capitals' top-ranked power play, while also carrying them through the first half of the season.
Despite that, Ribeiro and the Capitals had a difference of opinion on contract terms, so when it became clear to the 33-year-old that they could not offer him the four- or five-year contract that he was seeking, he signed elsewhere, choosing to join the Phoenix Coyotes on a four-year deal reportedly worth $22 million.
"I was surprised," Ribeiro said Friday. "I moved [to Washington], moved my family too. My thinking was, if I had a great season they'd keep me there, or find a way to keep me there, but obviously we couldn't. Once I confirmed they couldn't re-sign me, my first option was Phoenix. And that's what we went for."
According to Ribeiro, the Coyotes were the best option for him if he could not re-sign with the Capitals, mentioning that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators also had passing interest in his services. His familiarity with head coach Dave Tippett, who he played for as a member of the Dallas Stars from 2006-2009, played a pivotal role in his decision-making process, as did the franchise's recent decision to stay in Arizona for the time being.
"I think having the trust of your coach and having a coach that believes in you and will give you an opportunity to do well or put you in a position to succeed," Ribeiro said, "I think that was my No. 1 goal. To go somewhere knowing the coach and knowing a little bit of what they were looking for and what my role was going to be and being comfortable, and being able to communicate with the coach. He's done a great job there in Phoenix. He knows what he can get from me and I know what he wants and I'm ready to work for that."
With Ribeiro's departure, the Capitals' seemingly neverending search for a second-line center continues. It seems likely that either Brooks Laich or Mathieu Perreault will fill that position entering next season.
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