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Numbers Game: Coyotes get Ribeiro

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Scott Cullen
7/5/2013 1:36:58 PM
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Desperate for a playmaking centre, the Phoenix Coyotes came to a deal with the top point-getter on the free agent market.

Numbers Game examines the deal for playmaking centre Mike Ribeiro.

The Coyotes Get: C Mike Ribeiro.

Ribeiro, 33, is coming off a deceptively productive season. He was tied for 10th in the league with 49 points, but his 22 even-strength points was tied with several, including journeymen Brad Boyes and Lee Stempniak, for 74th.

More importantly, in terms of puck possession at even strength, Ribeiro's numbers have been in steady decline, so there is reason for concern, particularly considering his age. Once decline begins and a player is approaching his mid-30s, it's difficult to reverse that trend.

Phoenix was a better puck possession team than Washington last season, so maybe there is help for Ribeiro in that regard, but as the likely top scorer on the team, it's not ideal if he's relying on others to drive puck possession.

At the same time, in Phoenix, it's important to note, Ribeiro offers an offensive element that has been lacking. As a setup man, Ribeiro could help Phoenix's offence, which ranked 21st in the league with 2.52 goals per game and a power play that ranked 25th at 14.8%.

The issue isn't so much in the immediate term, as it's fair to expect 60 points or so out of Ribeiro in the next couple years. After all, since 2003-2004, he ranks 19th with 572 points and has a history with Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, who coached him previously in Dallas, but once Ribeiro is 35, 36 years old, it's going to be more difficult to get that kind of production.

It's Ribeiro's age that makes the four-year, $22-million contract dicey but, for a Coyotes team that has been trying to get by with Antoine Vermette and Martin Hanzal in their big-minute centre roles, taking the risk on Ribiero is both a reflection of a better fiscal atmosphere after their latest deal with Glendale City Council and of the Coyotes' willingness to take a chance on an older player because it's been so difficult for them to find a playmaking centre that can also anchor their power play.

Washington could miss Ribeiro's power play production, but they have a viable second line without him. Provided Brooks Laich is healthy, he could fit between Troy Brouwer and Martin Erat and that unit could provide adequate secondary scoring.

Ultimately, it's not ideal for the Coyotes, but they weren't in an ideal position. They had a need, paid handsomely to address it, and will live with what happens in years three or four. This franchise has been on a year-to-year status for so long now that being able to invest in a player long-term ought to be considered a sign of progress.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.

Mike Ribeiro (Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI via Getty Images)
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