Nashville is an option of last resort for NHL players, so the Predators were lucky to sign Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy.
It's never a good sign when the man announcing a free-agent signing feels compelled to state up front that he has “done [his] due diligence” on a player, but that's the sort of disclaimer that is required when you hitch your wagon to Mike Ribeiro.
The troubled center wasn't the first choice of Predators GM David Poile to fill Nashville's void in the middle, but with both Ribeiro and the team running out of options, they agreed on a one-year, $1.05 million contract on Tuesday morning.
“Mike is a talented veteran center who has produced offensively everywhere he has played,” Poile said in a statement. “We believe Mike has a lot to offer to our team, improves us at our center ice position and will fit in with our group and contribute.”
No doubt the dynamic playmaker can help an offense that's looking to find a spark under new coach Peter Laviolette. Ribeiro was a point-per-game player two years ago with the Capitals and got off to a terrific start with the Coyotes last season, scoring 26 points in his first 31 games before his wheels came flying off both on and off the ice. The situation deteriorated to the point where Phoenix cited "disciplinary issues" when the team bought him out last month; Ribeiro will be lugging some heavy baggage with him to Nashville. Sure, he's a risk, but his signing is about as perilous for the Preds as choosing extra spicy over original recipe at KFC. If Ribeiro doesn't work out, if he doesn't produce, if he becomes a distraction in any way, he can be tossed aside and neither the team's budget nor its long-term plan will be broken.
And there is some upside. If Laviolette can keep Ribeiro's head on straight, he can be the focal point for the power play and center a new-look top line alongside former Stars teammate James Neal, and possibly Craig Smith.
Poile grabbed some insurance for Ribeiro in the form of Derek Roy, who signed a one-year, $1 million deal about an hour later on Tuesday. The 31-year-old won't revolutionize the offense at even strength, but he brings the creativity and experience to make an impact with the man advantage. Roy led the Blues with 12 power play assists and was second on the team with 16 points in 2013–14. If he can find any way to contribute when playing five-on-five, even in a limited role, he's another arrow in the quiver for Laviolette.
It's true that neither of these signings is particularly sexy—Nashville still doesn't have to worry about hiring extra staff to handle long lines for season tickets. And neither player should be confused for a legit 1A pivot. But give Poile credit. Fair or not, his team is seen as a last-chance option by many players, and this summer the GM has found it impossible to lure the talent he really wants. Forced to wait for leftovers, Poile found a couple of serviceable veterans at rock-bottom prices, and bought another year of development time for some of the promising talent that he's stockpiled at AHL Milwaukee.
In the long term, that's significant. But there's short term value, too, because this team will be different. For Preds fans desperate for something other than the dull, predictable gruel they've been fed the past few seasons, that's no small consideration.
Given the circumstances, they really couldn't ask for more.