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Can the Caps keep Mike Ribeiro?

Last night during the Washington/Toronto game, CSN Washington asked the viewers, as they do every game, to weigh in on a particular matter via Twitter.  The topic of the day was, essentially, what has been the biggest reason for the Caps’ surge over the past month.  While not every person tweeted the same thing, the overarching theme was the strong play of Alexander Ovechkin.  I can find no error with that reasoning.  Ovechkin’s recent discovery of old ways has certainly been the driving force to turn this season around.

But what if the Caps’ had been even worse out of the gate?  It was not until February 24th that the Caps managed to crawl out of the basement of the Eastern Conference.  They did not become a .500 hockey team until March 8th.  Even then, it was only for a couple of days.  They were dreadful pretty much from top to bottom.  However, the one lone productive player seemed to be Mike Ribeiro.  While Alex was busy getting berated from every angle (myself included), while Backstrom was nowhere to be found, Mike Ribeiro was consistently putting in solid work night in and night out.  If Ovechkin is the MVP for the second half of the Caps’ season, Ribeiro has to be it for the first.  He was everything the Caps were hoping for when they traded Cody Eakin and a second round pick for him at the draft.  And now, with Backstrom having also rediscovered his form, Ribeiro has settled in nicely as the second line center the Caps have been looking for since Fedorov left.

But here’s the catch.  Mike Ribeiro is in the final season of his contract.  A contract that is worth $5 million a season.  Ribeiro, who turned 33 earlier this year, has made it clear he would like to stay in Washington, but would also like a long-term contract (4-5 years).  That alone would cause some problems.  Add to it that the salary cap will drop to $64.3 million next season.   To further complicate the matter, the Caps traded for Martin Erat, who is set to make $4.5 million for the next 2 seasons.  It seems as though just as the Caps find the guy they need, they might just have to let him walk.

The way they currently shake out for the Caps, they already have just over $54 millions tied up for next season.  That covers them for 9 forwards and 6 defencemen (not including Orlov).  Aside from Ribeiro, here are the other Caps entering some form of free agency, with their 2013 cap hit:

Restricted Free Agents:                                                                Unrestricted Free Agents

Karl Alzner (1,285,000)                                                   Tom Poti (2,875,000)
Marcus Johansson (900,000)                                       Joey Crabb (950,000)
Michal Neuvirth (1,150,000)                                        Matt Hendricks (825,000)
                                                                                                Eric Fehr (600,000)
                                                                                                Aaron Volpatti (600,000)
                                                                                                Wojtek Wolski (600,000)

Of those 9 pending free agents (not including Ribeiro), I’d imagine the Caps will probably pass on Tom Poti, Joey Crabb, Wojtek Wolski, and maybe Aaron Volpatti (I’d pass on him, but Oates seems to like him).  I am also inclined to think they can probably bring Matt Hendricks back for the same price.  With him signed, that would give the Caps just under $9.5 million to re-sign Neuvirth, Alzner, Fehr, Johansson, and Ribeiro.

In my opinion, Neuvirth, Alzner, Fehr, Johansson could each ask for $2,000,000 (at least, in the case of Alzner), but I hope they don’t as it would eat up almost all the cap.  Even if Johansson and Fehr take less than $2 million, it’s not leaving a whole lot of room for Ribeiro, who would probably ask for at least $3.5 million, while still giving themselves some room.  They will have to make at least one trade if they want to re-sign all of these players.  Given a quick glance, I would say Jeff Schultz is the most likely candidate, as he is set to make $2.75 million as a depth player.  The Caps CANNOT let Mike Ribeiro walk at the end of this season.

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About F Street Faithful

Welcome to the home of the F Street Faithful, run by Matthew Tate.  This is a go-to blog for all things related to the Washington Capitals.  The F Street Faithful is 5% news and 95% breaking down the news.

In the past I have written for several other sports blogs as well as the college newspaper while at  York College of Pennsylvania.  I am a graduate of York College of Pennsylvania but am based out of Southern Maryland. 

You can follow me on twitter @FStreetTate but I must warn that I do tweet about more than hockey. You can also e-mail me at any time at overtheboard@gmail.com.

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