2014 Free Agency: Mike Ribeiro

Worth a look? - Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

Will Sather give him a second chance? Is his career in the NHL done? Ribeiro is another option the Rangers can look into in their search for a second line center.

Before you read anything about what I'm going to say about Mike Ribeiro, I want you guys to recognize and remember a trend that is hard to ignore; Glen Sather gives players second chances. For better or for worse, Slats has never been afraid to give guys who have had problems off the ice a chance to redeem themselves and get their careers back on the right track wearing a Rangers jersey. We saw a lot of it in the "dark years" when the Rangers gave guys like Billy Tibbetts a chance to use hockey to get their life in order. Slats has, many times, invited former Rangers and veterans from other teams (Aaron Voros, Petr Nedved, and Johan Hedberg come to mind) to the Rangers training camp so that they might earn a place on the roster. You can't help but respect it, but you also have to recognize that when you take on a player with criminal or behavioral issues off the ice you are really taking a big gamble. And right now, a big gamble is exactly what 34 year-old Mike Ribeiro is.

It's also worth pointing out that it is a little less likely for Sather and the Rangers to make such a gamble after making it to the Stanley Cup Final, but if there is talent out there to be had, Glen Sather is not going to shy away from pursuing it.

With Brad Richards out of the picture the Rangers need a second line center. They could, of course, just play Derick Brassard in that role and give a kid like J.T. Miller a chance on the third line, but the need for a quality center is an apparent one. Mikhail Grabovski's name has been kicked around the rumor mill and on Blueshirt Banter as the guy that most of us would like to see the Rangers go after instead of breaking the bank to get someone like Paul Stastny or making a blockbuster deal to land Spezza or Thornton. There is a real chance that Ribeiro could be even cheaper to sign than Grabovski and there might be less competition for him on the market. If push comes to shove I'd take Grabovski over Ribeiro but I still think Ribeiro, at the very least, is worth a look from the Rangers brass.

So, what would Ribeiro bring to the Rangers on the ice?

Season

Team

GP

G

A

PPP

S

2009-10

DAL

66

19

34

23

155

2010-11

DAL

82

19

42

23

161

2011-12

DAL

74

18

45

15

142

2012-13

WSH

48

13

36

27

63

2013-14

PHX

80

16

31

15

110

In simple terms, Ribeiro gets the job done on the power play. He's an exceptional passer (he'll fit right in on a team that has a glut of pass-first centers and Martin St. Louis) but he also can get pucks into the net, especially on the man advantage. Ribeiro played one season for the Arizona Coyotes after signing a 4-year, $22 million deal with the club in the 2013 offseason. He got the big money from the 'Yotes because of what he accomplished in Washington playing on their lethal power play unit... and that is exactly why I think he's worth a look. It's no mystery that the Rangers need some pieces to make the power play a weapon instead of a weakness. Mike Ribeiro might be a solution that problem.

However, Ribeiro did struggle last season. In 2013-14 he was a healthy scratch for two games in the middle of the Coyotes' playoff push and had the worst year of his career (when he played at least 60 games). Ribeiro failed to click with any of his Coyotes teammates and his issues off the ice clearly impacted his play.

Okay... what about all that off the ice stuff?

This is a pretty damning quote:

"Mike had some real behavior issues last year with us I felt we could not tolerate going forward," General Manager Don Maloney said. "To his credit, he has been getting help this offseason and obviously would hope he continues. But at the end of the year and all the background checking and what happened, we felt that for us to move forward, we couldn't have him a part of this team."

When a team that can't afford to waste money buys a guy out and swallows his $5.5 million salary over the next three seasons, you know something must be seriously wrong. Keep in mind the Coyotes couldn't use an amnesty buy out on Ribeiro because his deal was signed under the new CBA, they're taking a cap hit penalty to get him out of their organization. That really says a lot about the severity of his off the ice issues. Also, this isn't a new thing for Ribeiro. The reason the Habs traded him to the Stars back in September of 2006 was because of his behavior off the ice and when the news came down on twitter Habs fans were not at all surprised.

I want to make a point to say the following; Mike Ribeiro is not my kind of hockey player. I've never liked him. I once saw him pretend to be hurt in a game to draw a penalty and then laugh about it on the bench just moments afterwards. I thought it was a pretty crappy thing to do and it has, for whatever reason, stuck with me over the years (I have trouble letting things go). So, I admittedly have some prejudice about him and the kind of person he is. However, I also recognize that he is a talented center that is now an unrestricted free agent. I seriously doubt that Mike Ribeiro's NHL career is over, but it could be and that would be a terrible thing not only for Ribeiro and his family but for the NHL. Ribeiro is the kind of guy that make a pass that 9 out of 10 NHLers just can't make. He's creative and dynamic with the puck. When given time and space, Mike Ribeiro can make special things happen. He can score big goals. He can make a power play lethal.

So, should Sather and the Rangers play with fire and hope they don't get burned? Should the Rangers, who might be going through some identity crisis in the leadership department in the upcoming season, risk ruining the recipe by bringing in a guy like Ribeiro? Or should they star far, far away from Ribeiro and let some other team take the risk?

I honestly don't know what the answer to this question is. If you twisted my arm I would say that the Rangers should pass on Ribeiro and turn their focus on Stastny (if he hits free agency) and Grabovski... but it is hard to escape the fact that Ribeiro, with the right linemates, will likely out-produce Grabovski and will be a great deal less expensive than Stastny. If he stays in the NHL he'll improve almost any power play unit he gets a chance to play with, he'll get the guys on his wings goals, and, if he can keep his behavioral issues in check, he'll make whatever team he signs with in this offseason a better team.

But maybe the Rangers aren't the fit for him. Maybe the Rangers shouldn't go after any center in free agency and give J.T. Miller a trial-by-fire this upcoming season on the third line. But, that doesn't seem like the right thing to do. Some times teams, even good teams, have to take chances. Sometimes those chances you take turn into home runs. Sometimes you take a chance and you foul tip it and it goes into the dugout and explodes your all-star pitcher's throwing hand just as he was raising a hot dog to his lips. And, of course, we are still far away from cyborg pitchers. Is this a chance that is worth taking for the Blueshirts?

Just some food for thought. What do you guys think? Let me know in the comments.

Let's go Rangers.

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