When the Coyotes inked Mike Ribeiro to a four-year, $22 million contract last July, the expectation was the veteran would bring some desperately needed scoring punch.
And early into his tenure with the team, it appeared he was going to do just that.
Ribeiro accounted for 37 points in his first 54 games with the team, looking like every bit the player the team hoped it was getting.
But things quickly deteriorated for the former Washington Capital, Dallas Star and Montreal Canadien, and soon his production — and playing time — diminished.
Friday, the Coyotes announced they had bought out the final three years of Ribeiro’s contract, cutting ties with the prize of their 2013 free agent haul.
“Mike had some real behavioral issues we felt we could not tolerate going forward,” Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said.
It’s a big blow to the team, especially since Ribeiro, for all his off-the-ice faults, was one of the more offensively skilled players on the roster.
A guest of Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday, Coyotes goalie Mike Smith talked about losing Ribeiro.
“It’s real tough, I think it’s obviously disappointing to have signed a guy like that and have to see him go,” he said. “I played with with Mike in Dallas also so I know him a little bit better than some of the guys, but I wish him nothing but the best.
“He’s obviously got some issues there, but I think he’s trying to get them resolved. And like I said, I wish him nothing but the best.”
What makes it worse is that it seems the issue had less to do with anything the 34-year-old did on the ice than it did with his life off it.
The veteran of 15 NHL seasons has had success in the league, tallying 202 goals and 454 assists in 865 career games, but none of that was enough for the Coyotes to tolerate keeping him on the roster.
Smith said both he and captain Shane Doan had talked with Ribeiro at times throughout the season in an effort to help turn things around, but in the end it’s ultimately on the person who has the issue to figure out a way to make it work.
And Ribeiro just couldn’t do it often enough.
“He played some good minutes for us, it was just the consistency of being a pro every day,” Smith said. “The NHL has gotten so good with players that are coming up through (the system), there are so many spots that are getting filled by younger talent and guys that are getting paid less that can kind of do a similar job.
“Like I said, he played good minutes for us but I think you pay a guy that much money, you expect more out of him on a consistent basis.”