Mike Ribeiro is having a wonderful season. He also turned 33 years old a few weeks ago, and if he is seeking a long-term deal, the Washington Capitals would be best served to pass.
Let’s start with even strength, where Ribeiro has 15 points, including five goals on 27 shots, his highest shooting percentage since 2007-08 (21.5 percent). That type of good fortune doesn’t last year to year, so we can expect a dropoff in his future scoring totals. And yes, it is true, he is a gifted passer, but his primary assists per 60 minutes (.84) is at its lowest point over the past six years.
What is also true is that Ribeiro does not drive play. His puck possession metrics have been on the decline since 2007-08, and this season only Troy Brouwer has a better Corsi percentage — which measures the amount of shots in Washington’s favor with the player in question on the ice — with Ribeiro (54 percent) than without him (49 percent). All of his other frequent linemates (minimum of 100 minutes) drive play better with someone else at the pivot during even strength.
Now on to the power play, where Ribeiro is currently tied with Sidney Crosby for second in points (17). Four of those are goals on just eight shots, making his 50 percent shooting percentage unsustainable. As are the assists. When Ribeiro is on the ice, Washington’s power-play unit has a 23.5 percent shooting percentage. Here is how rare it is for a player to play more than three minutes a night (40 games minimum) with the man advantage and sustain that level of productivity: Only Kimmo Timonen has done so since 2008-09. That’s it. One player, and Timonen saw that percentage regress the following year to 13 percent, more in line with his career averages.
Some may argue that playmakers like Ribeiro are better bets than scorers in the long term, and that may be true. However, they still age. Since the lockout of 2004-05, nine centers have played more than 40 games and averaged 0.50 assists per game or better at age 33. That number drops to seven at ages 34-35 to four at age 36 to two at age 37.
With the salary cap declining from $70 million to $64 million next season, plus new contract rules limiting year-to-year variability and the lowest year’s compensation (both based on the first year of the contract), it is probably best to shy away from any long-term deal for Ribeiro.