Capitals center Mike Ribeiro says he wants to end his NHL playing career in Washington.
Question is, at what price?
The Capitals and Ribeiro’s agent have spent the past few weeks exchanging figures, hoping to establish the framework that results in a contract extension before the April 3 trade deadline.
It was reported Wednesday night that the Capitals offered Ribeiro three years at $14 million. Ribeiro, 33, declined to confirm the report following Thursday’s practice.
“When it comes to reports from people and rumors or stuff like that, I’d rather just wait and see what happens,” Ribeiro said. “…If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. We’ll see what this week brings us and go from there.”
This is no easy decision for Capitals general manager George McPhee. The Capitals enter their three-game road trip to Buffalo, Philadelphia and Carolina four points out of a playoff spot.
Ribeiro, who leads the Capitals in scoring with 35 points in 33 games, is in the final year of a five-year contract that pays him $5 million a season. He is believed to be seeking a similar deal in both term and value.
Two NHL executives who spoke on the condition on anonymity said they’d be extremely hesitant to pay a 38-year-old Ribeiro $5 million.
“It’s gotta be tough,” Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said when asked to put himself in McPhee’s shoes. “He’s going into unrestricted free agency. He’s probably going to bring in a few bucks for himself and maybe the term that he’s looking for.
“You’ve got to find that fine line. You can’t sell the rest of the team short by trying to sign one player. You have to get him for what you believe is the right price. For me, I would love to see [Ribeiro] back. He’s been a huge part of our team this year. He’s been on the score sheet almost every night, leading our team in points. And he’s just another outside perspective who comes in this season and brings his experience and his wisdom.”
Ribeiro acknowledged there is more than just hockey weighing on his decision. He and his wife, Tamara, have three school-age sons attending school in McLean, Va., and he said it’s important for him to provide some stability for his family.
“Decisions are always to be made, and choices, and we’ll see where we are on both sides,” Ribeiro said. “I said from the get-go that I don’t want to move all the time. If I get traded before the end of this year and then move again before the beginning of next year, we’ll see. It’s part of the business and we’ll see where it goes.
“We’ve only been here a few months and it’s still an adjustment. It’s part of life, part of the business. If a decision is to be made it will, but for now I’ll come here tomorrow and get focused for this road trip.”
With three games and six days remaining before Wednesday’s deadline Brouwer said how the Capitals perform in Buffalo on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday could determine “whether we’ll be active one way or another.”
“I think we’re close enough to the playoffs where there’s not going to be a fire sale around here,” Brouwer said. “We’re very focused on making the playoffs.”
Ribeiro said he won’t let the trade and contract talk get in the way of him playing at a high level.
“I can put things in different places at the right time,” he said. “I don’t think about it before the game.
“We have a great team here and I believe this team can do some damage. It’s a short season and we had a bad start, but if you look at the talent and the team we have here I’m pretty comfortable staying here.”
The Capitals are 13-9-0 since starting the season 2-8-1 and for the first time all season they are relatively healthy at key positions.
“I’m sure I say this every year,” Brooks Laich said. “If we can improve our club we will. If we can’t we won’t.
“This year, maybe more than ever, it doesn’t really matter where you end up. The only thing that matters, and we’ve learned this in the past, is peaking at the right time. I think our game is coming around and I think some other teams are starting to get injuries and maybe coming back to earth a little bit. But I think our team is on the rise and I still think our best hockey is ahead of us and hopefully, we see that in the last 15 games.”