NHL Draft 2012: Analyzing the Washington Capitals' Trade for Mike Ribeiro

Dave Ungar@@DaveUngar68Correspondent IIIJune 24, 2012

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 03:  Mike Ribeiro #63 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on January 3, 2012 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals' 2012 NHL draft party actually got started well before the Caps acquired, arguably, the steal of the draft by picking up Filip Forsberg with the No. 11 pick.

Before the draft really got going, the Caps executed a trade with the Dallas Stars whereby the Caps acquired center Mike Ribeiro in exchange for Cody Eakin and the No. 54 pick in the draft.

If one reads various message boards, Caps fans seems to be somewhat split on this trade.

Stars fans seem to be quite disappointed.

In my opinion, this was a very good trade for the Caps.

Ribeiro has 12 years of NHL experience, so he is a veteran of the NHL wars. That will be very important for the Caps, who are losing quite a bit of veteran leadership with Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern leaving the team.

That is all fine and great. Veteran leadership and experience is hugely important.

But it is no secret why George McPhee went after Ribeiro—he is looking for that second-line center that has eluded him for a while now. Finding that second-line center has become a quest of sorts for McPhee.

A good article recounting the difficulty McPhee has had in this area appeared on kingsofleonsis.com just prior to the draft. Since Sergei Federov left the Caps following the 2008-2009 season, there has been a steady stream of promising potentials whom the Caps have tried to turn into second-line centers.

Brendan Morrison, Eric Belanger, Tomas Fleischmann, Jason Arnott, Brooks Laich, Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson have all tried, with varying degrees of success.

None of them have solved the problem completely.

Free agency was probably not going to solve the problem either. So McPhee decided to pull the trigger on a trade that could, conceivably, land the Caps that second-line center.

Is Ribeiro the answer?

Statistically speaking, maybe.

Over the past five seasons, all spent in Dallas, Ribeiro averaged 21 goals, 49 assists and 70 points.

He is a plus-13 during that same time frame, although that number is somewhat skewed due to the plus-21 he had during the 2007-2008 season.

During those same five years, Ribeiro averaged 146 shots on goal per season.

By way of comparison, over the same time frame, Brooks Laich averaged 20 goals per season, 27 assists and 48 points.

Laich's plus/minus for that time frame is a plus-18. He averaged 185 shots on goal per season during that time frame.

Granted, the Caps have been much more of an offensive juggernaut the past few seasons than the Stars, so the shots on goal disparity may be somewhat misleading.

Ribeiro would appear to be a better point generator than someone like Laich. Laich, however, puts the puck on net quite a bit more than Ribeiro.

As far as the playoffs are concerned, it is somewhat hard to gauge Ribeiro's success, as he has not played in the postseason since the 2007-2008 season.

In the four seasons he appeared in the playoffs, Ribeiro averaged only one goal and five assists with a minus-2 rating.

However, during the 2007-2008 playoffs, he did register 17 assists in 18 playoff games as the Stars made it to the Western Conference finals. Those are good, solid numbers.

Again, no one really knows how Ribeiro will do on a team with weapons like Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson. Will the Caps' offensive prowess make Ribeiro an even better and more potent player?

Obviously, George McPhee believes so.

But there is more to this trade than just pure numbers.

Stephen Whyno of The Washington Times feels that McPhee has found his second-line center with this move.

As Whyno noted: "Getting Ribeiro allows the Caps flexibility on the second and third lines, including the possibility of Brooks Laich taking on a shutdown role or playing on the wing."

I would have to agree with that. Even if Ribeiro does not turn out to be the complete answer, he should produce enough, and be enough of a playmaker, to allow the Caps' new coach to be creative with the lineup, particularly with Laich and Johansson.

Katie Carrera, of the Washington Post, notes that Ribeiro has been on the first or second line for most of his career, so becoming the Caps' second-line center should feel natural for him.

Carrera spoke with McPhee after the trade was made. The Caps GM talked about the flexibility Ribeiro will provide for the new Caps coach, whenever that coach is named:

“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 in that position [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].”

It also appears from that article that McPhee had been targeting Ribeiro since the trade deadline, but the Stars, who were playing for a possible playoff berth at the time, quite understandably did not want to make a move.

"I had been after this player for a while, so we got it done,” said McPhee.

Mike Ribeiro's arrival should allow the Caps to put Brooks Laich on the wing more often
Mike Ribeiro's arrival should allow the Caps to put Brooks Laich on the wing more oftenBruce Bennett/Getty Images

So, what do we make of all this? Is Ribeiro the answer to the Caps' second-line center woes—or is he just the next stop-gap to the problem?

Only time will tell. Ribeiro will allow the Caps to be more flexible and creative with their forwards, making them less predictable. That will be a definite plus.

There is no disputing that Ribeiro is an experienced player who consistently produces. There is nothing wrong with that.

And Ribeiro's contract is only for another year, so the Caps will have time to make a very informed decision as to whether they wish to make any sort of long-term commitment.

Consider the numbers, what Ribeiro brings to the table, the opportunities he will create for not just himself, but the rest of the Caps' forwards, and the fact that the Caps are only committed to him for one year (so far). This was a very good trade for the Caps—and one that could pay very big dividends.


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