The Phoenix Coyotes have tried and failed with free agents for many years.
There was Owen Nolan, Tony Amonte, Brett Hull, Mike Ricci and Peter Nedved — of which only Ricci made it to a second season with the Coyotes and that was only for seven games.
Always trying to catch lightning in a bottle and find someone who could put the puck in the net or ignite the offense, the ‘Yotes signed aging stars with little left in the tank and watched those signings backfire on them. But not this time. For the first time that I can remember, Phoenix has landed a prime free agent and it will work out.
After his two goals Tuesday night, including the game-winner over Calgary, Mike Ribeiro now has five goals and four assists in 10 games. He has added a much-needed dimension to the Coyotes with his playmaking ability and scoring touch, is a major factor on the power play and one of the best in the NHL in shootouts.
Plus, he is a terrific locker room presence and a great teammate that wants to win. Shane Doan said Wednesday on our show that out of all the free agents on the market this offseason, Ribeiro was the one that he wanted. He also said that Ribeiro’s signing — he inked a four-year deal for $22 million — gave Phoenix instant credibility and that other free agents wanted to come here after hearing of the signing.
Ribeiro is 33-years-old and still in his prime. And while he has never scored 30 in a season, he is a solid center man who has three times gone over 50 assists a season and has 191 goals in his 13-year career. That he was available was a surprise.
Washington, where he played last year and centered for Alex Ovechkin, balked at paying him what he wanted. He had played for head coach Dave Tippett during a six-year stint in Dallas, so he was familiar with the system and comfortable with the coach.
While we don’t know what Ribeiro’s final numbers will be in his first season with Phoenix, they should be much better than what the Coyotes got out of the aforementioned free agents.
Brett Hull was so bad he played in just five games with Phoenix, tallying one assist before retiring.
Owen Nolan, he of the 463 career goals, had 16 goals and 24 assists in his one year with the Coyotes in 2006-07.
Tony Amonte netted 416 goals in his career, but tallied just 13 goals and 23 assists in 59 games with Phoenix in 2002-03.
Mike Ricci chipped in 10 goals and six assists in 78 games in 2005-06 and just one assist in seven games the next season.
Petr Nedved had just two goals and nine assists in 25 games in 2005-06.
Those moves all failed and netted Phoenix nothing.
Ribeiro is signed for four years and is already paying dividends.