Mike Ribeiro isn’t sure what the future brings. But for now he knows he’s with the Washington Capitals, and that won’t change for the rest of this season.
“I think we have a good thing going here: Close to our division, close to making the playoffs,” Ribeiro said.
Ribeiro did not sign a contract extension before Wednesday’s trade deadline, but the 33-year-old center who’s set to become an unrestricted free agent July 5 brushed off concern.
“I still have the rest of this year of my contract. Nothing changes, and [we] still have a lot of time after today if they want to sign me or not,” Ribeiro said. “So for me it’s to keep playing and make the playoffs that’s important. We can talk and get things done and see where it goes from there.”
The relief for Ribeiro was knowing he wouldn’t get dealt. With the Caps two points back of first place in the Southeast Division with two games in hand on the Winnipeg Jets and 12 to play, it would have been difficult to envision general manager George McPhee trading Ribeiro.
“With our last two weeks or so I think you can see our potential, what we can do,” Ribeiro said. “I’m happy here, and hopefully we can keep winning here and make the playoffs.”
Keeping Ribeiro, whether the Caps are able to extend him or not, sends a message to the rest of the locker room that this year is the priority.
“He’s a very, very important piece of this team right now,” right wing Troy Brouwer said. “With him not being moved, guys know that we have that second-line center that adds another element of dangerous ability to put the puck in the net and be a solid two-way player behind Nicky. He’s been phenomenal for us all year long.”
McPhee said he never intended to trade Ribeiro or any of the Caps’ impending unrestricted free agents.
“They’ve played well for us this year and we have lots of time to talk,” McPhee said. “We’ll see what the future brings. I just didn’t think it would be the right thing to do for our team or our fan base.”
Ribeiro is looking for a “long-term” deal (read: four or five years). Whether it’s with Washington or someone else, Ribeiro will have someplace to play, but his anxiety ended Wednesday.
“The stress was more about am I staying here or moving,” Ribeiro said. “The contract, I don’t think I’ll have a problem to sign. It’s just a matter of time and for me it’s to keep playing well. If we make the playoffs and we win playoffs then it will be even easier to sign after. It was just a focus now on winning games and getting us into the playoffs.”