By Jim Diamond
New Year’s Day is more than just an opportunity to eat black-eyed peas, at least as far as the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHLPA is concerned anyway. Jan.1 marks the day that players who were signed to one-year Standard Player Contracts may enter into new deals with their current teams.
One such player who fits into this category is Nashville Predators center Mike Ribeiro. After the Arizona Coyotes bought out the final three years of his four-year contract with them last offseason, Ribeiro signed a one-year, $1.05 million deal with the Predators July 15th.
Playing in all 36 games so far this season, Ribeiro has had a strong start to his time with the Predators, scoring nine goals and adding 21 assists. While the hockey season isn’t yet half over, Ribeiro hopes that calendar year 2015 continues on the positive path that the second half of 2014 had for him both on and off of the ice.
“Hopefully I can start this year a little bit better than last year,” Ribeiro said following Thursday’s practice. “It’s a new year and hopefully it can be a full year for me and not half a year and stay on the same track and help the team win.”
When he signed with the Predators, Ribeiro openly discussed how problems in his personal life affected him professionally. Now with the former markedly better, the latter has followed suit. Ribeiro said that he and his family are enjoying living in Nashville.
“It’s been pretty low-key,” he said. “I’m trying to focus on work and family and we have a great group of guys here too helping me through the year. I’m just happy to be here.”
Another guy who is happy about Ribeiro being in Nashville is Predators head coach Peter Laviolette.
“He’s been excellent since day one,” Laviolette said. “He’s seamlessly fit right into the team and a big part of the team internally here in the locker room, but his on-ice play has been outstanding. Another guy that is a big reason why we sit where we sit.”
Since early on in training camp, Laviolette has had Ribeiro centering the team’s top line. One of his linemates for most of the season has been rookie winger Filip Forsberg.
“He’s a really smart player,” Forsberg said. “I just try to get open and I know he will find me. He’s also a great guy outside the rink. He’s been in the league a really long time, so he knows what it takes to be successful, so I just try to pick up as much as I can from him.”
With Ribeiro as his center, Forsberg has 14 goals and 21 assists through 36 games, Forsberg is at the top of the list of candidates for the Calder Trophy, given to the NHL’s top rookie.
When asked about his contract status, Ribeiro said he is not in a huge hurry to work on a new deal just yet.
“If it happens, it happens,” he said. “I think we will probably wait until the end of the year. I don’t see the rush, but if they are ready to talk, obviously we will talk, but there’s no rush for that.”
As a result of being one of few, if not the only team willing to take a gamble on Ribeiro last summer, the Predators are getting a significant discount on a highly productive top line center at just north of a million dollars. Ribeiro will turn 35 in February, but with the market for top-six forwards looking very thin, he will be eligible for a significant raise.
And money may not be so much of a driving concern for Ribeiro thanks to the buyout money he is receiving from the Coyotes. Arizona will pay Ribeiro just shy of $2 million per season through 2019-20.
For now, he is happy with his situation in Nashville. He said that he didn’t think his agent has had any discussions with Predators general manager David Poile as of yet and he is just worried about playing right now.