What should the Washington Capitals do with Mike Ribeiro?

Here we go George McPhee! Your future as the Washington Capitals general manager is at stake (oh wait, I forgot Ted Leonsis believes in loyalty to an disgracefully embarrasing fault). The Capitals’ chances at a Stanley Cup in the long term are at stake. Finally, the future of Washington’s chances of finally winning a f*#$ing championship and to finally matter as a sports town for the first time in 21 years is at stake (hey media, way to make such a big deal out of Philadelphia’s title drought but never waste your breath when a city full of stereotipycal out-of-town hipsters who don’t care about sports, let alone the local teams, are in just as long of a title drought). But hey, no pressure right?

So let’s get to the heart of the matter, what do you do with Mike Ribeiro? He is the first second line center to look like he can stay in Washington since the end of Sergei Federov’s career (which really matters, as we learned last week). He is 33 years old. He is a magician on the puck. He is 33 years old. He has freed up Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brower and Mike Green on the power play unit and made them relevant for the first time in three years. He is 33 years old. Despite averaging a highlight reel play a game, he really doesn’t generate as much offense as many believe. He is 33 years old. Because he is really 79 179 pounds, he’ll never be a physical presence and always finds a way to be terrible on the face-off dot as a result. He is 33 years old. He will never get respect from NHL referees ever again unless he shuts his mouth and plays the game cleanly for the rest of his career. He is 33 years old. He is the team leader in points…and he is 33 f*#$ing years old!!!

Hey, way for me to attempt to be a professional writer and drop two f-bombs at the same time, but here is the reality as a Caps fan. This hockey team is dying as a winning commodity before our very eyes! If you were to ever witness any Caps game from the end of the 2007-2008 regular season to the beginning of the 2010-2011 regular season, you would have thought this team would never stop contending. But then it did stop. The entire organization has been flat out traumatized ever since the 2010 Montreal series and bad transaction after bad transaction happened. At the end of the day, the Capitals, at best, will be hitting the dreaded “no man’s land” (7th-11th in the Eastern Conference) for the second straight season. Teams are no longer afraid to attack us as the Caps just look slower and slower. Look at the most recent game against the Flyers as proof. I think it is safe to say that if we were to have one of those short-track speedskating relays, the Capitals would finish in the bottom 10 in the league; the complete opposite from the glory days.

The hockey sabremetrics show that too. Corsi% measures how much a team attempts to shoot at the other team’s net divided by total shot attempts. For Corsi% (named after former Sabres goalie coach Jim Corsi), it accounts for shots on target, shots off target and blocked shots. Another stat, Fenwick% (named after hockey blogger Matt Fenwick) excludes blocked shots. If one team’s Corsi% and/or Fenwick% is over 50%, it means that team out-shoots their opponents on a consistent basis. Here have been the Caps’ numbers over the years.

Fenwick% Corsi%
2007-08 55.2% 55.6%
2008-09 54.7% 54.9%
2009-10 51.7% 52.9%
2010-11 51.0% 51.2%
2011-12 49.1% 48.9%
2012-13 48.2% 49.0%

So as you can see, Fenwick and Corsi matter in order to become a consistent winning team and not show that your season is full of lucky bounces here and there. With this in mind, let’s look at the two choices George McPhee can do in terms of Mike Ribeiro.

Trade Him

First, the team that should receive Mike Ribeiro in a trade has to be a team that is contending for a playoff spot. This will be defined as a team with a 50% points percentage as of Midnight on April Fool’s day. Next, that team HAS to be in the western conference. Why? Because it is not a smart idea to have Mike Ribeiro potentially resign with a team that you may have to play 3-4 times a season in the future. Next, this team has to make up for the poor faceoff, fenwick and corsi numbers Ribeiro brings. However, this team would not mind getting a guy that will help out on the power play and/or overall offense. So here are the candidates to get Mike Ribeiro.

Chicago (3.29 GPG, 54.4% Fenwick, 53.6% Corsi, 49.9% FO, 18.0% PP)

Only Pittsburgh scores more goals per game than Chicago and are certainly among the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. However, it is weird to see Jonathan Teows as the only top tier center on the team. Despite that, their talent on both wings is absolutely unmatched in the Western Conference. Their power play is ok, but it’s not the platform from where their offense comes from. Unfortunately, the Blackhawks, once again, need to make cap space for next year, but if they can free some wasted space in Michael Frolik and/or Johnny Oduya to get Ribeiro, a trade could be on.

Anaheim (2.97 GPG, 46.6% Fenwick, 47.0% Corsi, 47.6% FO, 22.6% PP)

Oh boy….oh boy. Can Bruce “almighty” Boudreau win the Stanley Cup in Anaheim and add more misery to what Washington’s window could have been? In a conference that can be too sheepish to score goals, why not? The advanced stats say “no chance” and there maybe too many individuals that are hitting outlier seasons (hello Andrew Cogliano). I mean, are Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray really going to be the most important defencemen on a Stanley Cup Champion? They have some money to use, but the Ducks might need it for resigning Kyle Palmieri and maybe Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne if they want to keep their hockey careers going. Unless it is prospect Emerson Etem, I don’t see Washington wanting anyone from Anaheim to make a trade.

Minnesota (2.74 GPG, 48.3% Fenwick, 48.2% Corsi, 52.7% FO, 18.3% PP)

An interesting candidate. Minnesota were the offseason darlings after signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. So the pressure is definitely on them to perform well in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They could use Ribeiro’s services as their offense and power play could use an extra spark and they have enough guys to cover him on the faceoff dot. Unfortunately, Minnesota is strong on the right wing instead of the Capitals’ troubled left wing spot and outside of Tom Gilbert’s expensive contract, it won’t be smart for Washington to get a veteran in return. However, Minnesota has the #1 farm system in the NHL and if they are ready to go for it all, it’s not a bad idea to see if they can add Ribeiro for say, struggling youngster Mikael Granlund (look Mike Millbury and Don Cherry, another European stealing a Canadian’s job!) or 2012 #7 overall pick Matt Dumba.

Vancouver (2.51 GPG, 53.7% Fenwick, 53.0% Corsi, 47.2% FO, 12.8% PP)

Hmm. Remember when Vancouver was an Alex Burrows dust-up and an extreme Roberto Luongo collapse away from winning a Stanley Cup? They are still a playoff team, but boy have they hit the cliff. Ryan Kessler has only played 7 games and the fact that Jordan Schroeder and a past his prime Maxime Lapierre have to be top six forwards shows how little depth they have there. They maybe a good trade partner to get Mike Ribeiro, but the core of their team is really starting to age, they only have $4 million to spend for next summer and there are absolutely no top tier prospects in the system. However, seeing if they can unload Mayson Raymond during his contract year or one of their horribly expensive defencemen in say, Keith Ballard could be an idea (why not, you could always amnesty him if he plays like crap; a subject the media makes little to no emphasis on).

Los Angeles (2.91 GPG, 58.0% Fenwick, 57.8% Corsi, 51.2% FO, 19.7% PP)

Woah!!! This is the hockey team sabremetricians die for! After going through a rough start, the Kings are back in the thick of things and are the #1 Corsi and Fenwick team in hockey. Unfortunately for Washington, they are too deep at center in Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter, have the cap space that will be used in resigning all their coveted RFAs and only have Tyler Toffoli to show for in the top prospect list. Unless Los Angeles wants to get rid of grizzled vet Rob Scuderi and his contract year, I don’t see a trade.

Detroit (2.54 GPG, 51.7% Fenwick, 52.1% Corsi, 51.5% FO, 17.2% PP)

Interesting choice. Stereotypically, this is the team where aging veterans sit by a campfire, sing kumbaya, make smores and learn  the meaning of teamwork so they can finish their careers as Stanley Cup Champions. It’s like Hickory High in Hoosiers but in real life! On paper, there is kind of a “20 role players, plus Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Jimmy Howard” feel to this team, but this could be the time Detroit thinks outside the box and uses those particular role players to get Ribeiro. Some will say he’s doesn’t act like a Red Wing, but not everyone does at first. Watch out for a Valterri Filppula, Ian White or Kyle Quincey to come back the Caps way if a trade happens. Those names sound like good players, but like Ville Leino when he went to the Flyers and Sabres, will the truth be found out about them once they leave Detroit? In conclusion, don’t mess with Ken Holland!

St. Louis (2.79 GPG, 54.5% Fenwick, 51.7% Corsi, 50.2% FO, 22.4% PP)

Watching the St. Louis Blues during the first weeks of the NHL season was breathtaking as NBC Sports Network could not stop gushing about how well they performed on getting in the opposition zone. The advanced metrics prove that this is a team not to mess with and their core certainly has a “2008-2009 Capitals” feel to them. They have all the money in the world to spend in the summer, but you have to think St. Louis’ read George McPhee’s playbook and will be smart in resigning all their players and carefully picking and choosing who will take them to a potential cup final. To say the least, remember the Blues once they make the playoffs when you are filling out your brackets.

Nashville (2.43 GPG, 47.1% Fenwick, 47.2% Corsi, 50.9% FO, 17.9% PP)

Poor Nashville. Poor Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber. First they lost Ryan Suter, then Sergei Kostitsyn and Alex Radulov killed the chemistry on this team and now they are back to square one. The young prospects Nashville has been stockpiling are trying to get the job done for them, but maybe at a much earlier time than they would like. So for the Caps, as soon as David Poile knows that his old team is trying to reach him, 99 times out of 100, he hangs up and rips the cord out of the land line phone.

Dallas (2.76 GPG, 49.7% Fenwick, 50.5% Corsi, 48.0% FO, 18.8% PP)

Welcome back Mike Ribeiro! This won’t be the first time a Washington team trades away a player and then gets him back after taking advantage of their trade partner from the start. Except for Kari Lehtonen, nobody on Dallas is performing at a super elite level. So you have to think that this team will someday be smart enough and realize that a rebuild has to start at any moment. As history tells us, sometimes all it takes is signing Jaromir Jagr to learn that your team isn’t good enough.

San Jose (2.32 GPG, 51.5% Fenwick, 50.5% Corsi, 53.0% FO, 18.4% PP)

The darling candidate that always pops up. It’s not a bad idea, as Shark’s scoring has gotten worse and worse with an aging lineup over the years. However, San Jose’s center line depth with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski is their biggest strength. If anything, they need all they can get on the wings: the exact thing Washington wants to improve on their forward lines. Unless they want to team Ryan Clowe with Jason Chimera to see who can underachieve the least this season, prospects Thomas Hertl and Charlie Coyle, draft picks and/or maybe Brad Stuart seem to be the only candidates to bring back in return. However, could the Sharks be willing to go for a center for center trade? Keep reading and you’ll find out.

Columbus(2.31 GPG, 44.8% Fenwick, 46.8% Corsi, 51.3% FO, 13.4% PP)

Good for Columbus to get into it’s first playoff run in four years, but Corsi and Fenwick shows that this won’t last. The roster even shows that it won’t be smart for the Caps to ship Ribeiro over there. Sure, they can get a high draft pick and they might have some ok defencemen, but they are too expensive if they will join Green, Carlson, Alzner and maybe Orlov. Finally, 2012 #2 overall pick Ryan Murray is the only big name prospect they have and Columbus will stop at nothing to keep the potential superstar.

The bottom line

So there you have it folks. To me Detroit, Vancouver and San Jose seem like the teams Washington should get in touch with in order to make the perfect Mike Ribeiro trade.

With Vancouver, Keith Ballard is the top guy Vancouver should smartly give up in return for Ribeiro, but he too has terrible corsi numbers and it will become more noticeable for his position. So in other words, if Mayson Raymond or a boat load of picks are not involved, I would hang up on Vancouver immediately.

So for Detroit, their blue line would probably be wrapped in barbwire after failing to get in the Jay Bouwmeester sweepstakes. But possible giving up one of their younger players in Tomas Tatar or Cody Emmerton could be fascinating. Also, who knows if the Red Wings are willing to give anything more than $3 million a year to Valtteri Filppula once he hits free agency. But the more you try to find a trade that looks logical on both sides, the more it looks like if Washington gives up Ribeiro, it will be seen as a rebuild no matter what. Once again, don’t ever mess with Ken Holland!

With San Jose, could they take a risky maneuver and trade Joe Pavelski? Logan Couture surely will be begging for a gigantic contract by 2014 as well and San Jose needs all the cap space it can get. They freed the center lines a smidget after giving up Michal Handzus, but is that enough to make a Mike Ribeiro trade? I’d say yes and afterwards, the Caps can try to offload the likes of Jeff Schultz, Jason Chimera, Wojtek Wolski or Mathier Perrault to other teams that want them for draft picks. Hey, if Ryan Clowe is on the market, so can these list of Capitals cast offs, right? Here is my #1 trade idea.

Mike Ribeiro, Joel Ward and a 2013 5th round pick (123rd overall) to San Jose for Joe Pavelski, Brad Stuart and his amnesty clause and a 2013 2nd Round pick (49th overall)

Sign Him

Martin St. Louis and Shane Doan

What do these two have in common? They are leaders of their of should-be terrible hockey franchises in Tampa Bay and Phoenix respectively that stayed throughout their entire careers. St. Louis has won a Stanley Cup for his team in 2004, while Doan is in the top three or five perfect examples of what an NHL captain should be. But for this exercise, they are the standard bearers for how expensive you can go when you need to resign your star forwards over the age of 33. Can you guess how expensive their contracts are when they resigned? For St. Louis, it is $5.625 million a year, while it is $5.3 million a year. The lengths: amazingly, only four years.

So for all the talk Mike Ribeiro wanting to seek a long term deal, you have to think that anything longer than four years will be nothing short of wishful thinking, right? Well, not so fast! As we look at just centers from here on out, Brad Richards and Patrick Sharp could be the counter-arguments for this dilemma as both signed gigantic contracts recently. But once you look at the details, you’ll see two layers unravel right in front of you. Both Richards and Sharp signed their recent contracts at age 31 instead of 33 (trust me, this is a big difference in hockey years), both went to significantly bigger cities and sports markets and, most importantly, both won Stanley Cups. The lesson as always for player acquisitions and Hall of Fame voting is to never underestimate how unbelievably inflated one’s stock becomes when one wins a Stanley Cup (hello, Ruslan Fedotenko).

So now we continue on down the list of over-33 resignees club and you find big mac connoisseur Olli Jokinen and his 2 years/$9 million contract he signed this year starting at his age 34 season. Next up is Mike “Mr. Carrie Underwood” Fisher and his 2 years/$8.4 million starting next year for his age 33 season. Sadly, we then have Marc Savard’s 7 years/$28+ million next when it started at his age 33 season and we all know how that turned out. Finally, we get to Saku Koivu and his very fascinating contract history. If you look at his capgeek.com page, it makes perfect sense why George McPhee would want 3 years/$14 million to be the starting point for Ribeiro’s contract negotiation.

With Mike Ribeiro’s argument being that he can beat anybody mentioned in that last paragraph in terms of production, you can also see a four year deal make sense too. But the proof is that anything longer than that could be nothing short of ignorant on George McPhee’s decision making. As a result, the final offer has to be 4 years/$19 million. No ands, its or buts. Take it or leave it Mikey!

So there you have it! Deep and scary (but hopefully not boring) analysis, huh? Let me know your thoughts. Are you gonna love it or list it sign him or trade him? Feel free to make your own Mike Ribeiro decision by posting it on DCSportsDork’s facebook or twitter page and here’s to hoping the Caps make the right move on trade dead-line deadline day.

Many thanks from nhl.com, behindthenet.ca, capgeek.com, hockey-reference.com, nhlnumbers.com and stats.hockeyanalysis.com for helping me on this post.

5 comments

  1. Stuart went to San Jose to be closer to his family, there’s no way they’re moving him. Plus I don’t think San Jose is going to gamble on a rental like Mike. Vancouver might be interested, and use Ribiero to plug in the gap left by Kesler. Minnesota only happens if they go all in for the cup this year, as they’re bumping up close to the cap, but if we could get either grandlund, dumba or Brodin back in exchange I’d be happy.

  2. [...] So we know the players the Caps got in return. Let’s see how on earth a deal like this got done. First, let’s review what I thought about Nashville in Monday’s Ribeiro trade/contract extension preview. [...]

  3. [...] did they get here: Remember that final sentence on my Mike Ribeiro piece about Dallas? Well, here it is [...]

  4. [...] St. Louis! If you read my Mike Ribeiro post, you would have thought the Blues would have been my dark horse candidate to win the Cup. Instead, [...]

  5. […] leads us to the mystery man, Mike Ribeiro. Round two of “what should we do” columns are coming up and thousands of words aren’t enough […]

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