NEW YORK | Mike Ribeiro would like to re-sign with the Washington Capitals, but he wants it to be on his terms. In other words, long term.
The Caps’ leading scorer, who will be an unrestricted free agent July 5, said Sunday he would prefer a four- or five-year deal.
“If we can agree to a long-term [contract], then I’ll be more than happy to stay here,” Ribeiro said. “But I don’t know if I’m looking for two years and change place and then another two years. I don’t think I want that. So we’ll see what we’re going to come to.”
What does long-term mean to Ribeiro?
“Five years for me is long term,” he said. “Two, three years I don’t think it’s long term. It’s short-term. Two, three is short term. Four, five, six [is] long-term. Then 10 years like Ovi, that’s a marriage thing.”
Alex Ovechkin signed a 13-year, $124 million in 2008 when he was 22. Ribeiro is 33, and the team could be more willing to give him a three-year deal that would take him to age 36.
But the playmaking center also has a wife and three children and said before this season he would like to put roots down in the D.C. area after spending a lot of time in his previous stops in Montreal and Dallas.
“Obviously family comes first. If I could get a five-year [deal], then I’m 38 and then I don’t want to move, then I’ll stay here,” Ribeiro said. “I want to stay in a city for at least the next 10 years until they’re done with high school and then go to college. So if I could get a five-year and then stay in the same city the next five, seven years with the kids and I don’t want to move them too much throughout school. Especially teenage ages, I guess it’s hard for kids to move around. For me it’s to be stable somewhere, and if we can do that here, I think I would be more than happy.”
Ribeiro is in the final season of a five-year, $25 million contract he originally signed with the Dallas Stars. He could command upwards of $6 million a year on the open market this summer, though compliance buyouts make it impossible to know the players who will be available. It’s uncertain if he could get four or five years, though that’s not out of the question.
Ribeiro said the Caps approached him and his agent, Don Meehan of Newport Sports, a month ago about an extension.
“I didn’t think it was the right time to talk about contract then, but now that we’re getting closer to the trade deadline and team’s doing better now, there will be big decisions next week to be made,” Ribeiro said.
The trade deadline is 3 p.m. April 3, and the Caps on Monday were two points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot. Ribeiro has 10 goals and 24 assists, Washington’s leading scorer by three points over Ovechkin.
“It’s not a secret. We have a good relationship off the ice. He’s a great guy,” the captain said recently. “I hope we’re gonna sign him for next year. Maybe two, three years. I don’t know. I’m not judge. But you can see the results. He’s right now our best points man on our team, and he gives us results.”
Asked again Sunday about Ribeiro re-signing, Ovechkin said: “I hope so. But it’s not my job to tell somebody to sign this guy or that guy.”
Ribeiro has piled up points, but he watched a similar situation unfold in Dallas in 2011 with impending unrestricted free agent center Brad Richards.
“He was becoming a free agent and they decided to keep him and then lose him for nothing,” Ribeiro recalled. “And that hurt us at the end of it. So that’s something I don’t want to do. So if we can agree to something, then I would be more than happy. And then if not, I don’t want to screw the team up.”
The Caps have four games before the deadline. They also have three-plus months until Ribeiro hits the open market.
That’s a lot of time to decide, but the next few games and the direction of the team could play a major role.
“Hopefully I can stay here and I have a long-term deal with them,” Ribeiro said. “We’ll see what happens this week. I think it will be a big week for decisions to be made. We’ll see what’s going to happen.”