The Washington Capitals making draft day trades has become an annual occurrence. Entering Friday’s first round, the Caps had been involved in NHL Draft transactions for four consecutive years, bringing them players like John Carlson (2008), Philipp Grubauer (2010) and Troy Brouwer (2011).
Friday, the Caps continued that trend, acquiring forward Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars in exchange for forward prospect Cody Eakin and a 2012 second-round draft pick (No. 54), which also continued General Manager George McPhee’s trend of being incredibly thrifty. Yet, what separates Ribeiro’s arrival from those that preceded him in recent years is that his will make arguably the biggest impact in Washington by shoring up the team’s weakest link: second-line center.
At 32 years old, Ribeiro is a seasoned and cagey veteran who is an elite playmaker and proven scorer; he has amassed eight consecutive seasons of at least 51 points, including 63 points last season, which is more than any of Washington’s hopeful second-line solutions from last season – Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson – have ever earned throughout their respective careers. He has exceptional vision, soft hands and even adds an agitating presence to a team that has sorely lacked all three at different points throughout the last several seasons.
“We wanted to add a little bit of skill to our lineup,” McPhee said Friday. “I just didn’t like the way we played in the playoffs. We’ve got some big gritty forwards and we just wanted to put another skilled guy in the middle of it to see if it helps. I think it makes our team immediately better.”
Ribeiro’s arrival will allow the Caps to better structure their entire lineup. Laich will be able to focus on being a shutdown center or winger on one of Washington’s checking lines, while Johansson could return to the wing, where he saw plenty of time during the end of the season. Ribeiro will also help establish a more potent second power play unit as well as add another shootout specialist to join Matt Hendricks.
“He’s got skill, makes plays and he’s a pretty good shootout guy, too,” McPhee said, adding that he pursued Ribeiro during the trade deadline last season to no avail. “We think he’s a one or two center in this league.”
“I like being able to have a coach craft different lineups for different teams,” McPhee said. “I loved the way Brooks played in the playoffs [at second-line center]. It’s nice to know he can do it again, but to find that kind of skill, I’m looking forward to watching [Ribeiro].”
With Washington’s likely long-term solution at second-line center – Evgeny Kuznetsov – staying in Russia for at least two more years, perhaps Ribeiro is just another proverbial band-aid; Ribeiro is under contract for one more season with a salary cap hit of $5 million. Yet, unlike other similar experiments such as Brendan Morrison, Eric Belanger and Tomas Fleischmann, Ribeiro is a player that can make an immediate impact as a purely offensive player.
The NHL Draft is the one weekend every year where NHL teams can prepare themselves for the future. With the arrival of Ribeiro, however, the Caps have proven once again that that same weekend can be as much about the present.
Thanks to SB Nation D.C.’s Ted Starkey for providing the audio.