PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Dave Tippett’s teams have always won with defense.
Even with the long-awaited ownership situation settled and the spending ability that it provides, the team’s formula for success that is not going to change.
However, it sure is going to make things a lot more dynamic for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Just days after the Glendale City Council approved the leasing agreement with the IceArizona group to keep the team in Arizona, the Coyotes made a major splash in free agency by signing center Mike Ribeiro away from the Washington Capitals to a four-year, $22-million contract.
In the lockout-shortened season, Ribeiro tallied 36 assists, the fifth-highest total in the league, and he finished tied for 10th in scoring with 49 points. Given that caliber of production, it came as a moderate surprise to Ribeiro that he was allowed to leave the Capitals.
“With the season that I had, I was expecting to be signed earlier than that,” said Ribeiro. “With (salary) caps, everyone is squeezed in this year, and they weren’t able to sign me.”
Yet when he found himself free to sign with any team, the Coyotes and Tippett—his former head coach when both were in Dallas—immediately jumped onto Ribeiro’s radar.
“Our first pick as a family, and really for me, was to be comfortable in where I was going and to not have to restart,” Ribeiro said. “We’ve (Tippett) been friends. My wife’s been friends with Tip’s wife. It was a comfortable place for us to be. I loved to be coached by Tip. I believe in what he’s trying to do, and I think that he believes in me.”
But it wasn’t until it was clear that the team would remain in Arizona that it became a lock.
“Phoenix or Seattle ... it would have maybe changed my plans if it was Seattle,” said Ribeiro. “Right away, when they decided to stay here for a few years, it was a no brainer to come here for four years.”
Once the interest was found to be mutual, a deal was done quickly between the team and Ribeiro.
“We were able to do it pretty quick,” said Ribeiro. “Last time I was a free agent, I had a chance to sign during the season, and you don’t have the stress of not knowing where you are going. It was important not to drag this along too far into free agency and wait two or three more weeks. It was important to me to get ready for the next season. The Coyotes were my first pick.”
With the ownership group finally in place, along with a well-respected general manager in Don Maloney and a contract extension for Tippett completed, Phoenix is enjoying a newfound sense of stability. With a marquee free agent in Ribeiro having chosen to sing a long-term deal, the newest Coyote thinks he could be the first in a trend of players opting to play in the desert.
“I think a lot of guys will think about it for the next few years,” said Ribeiro. “Similar to Dallas, when you don’t have an owner, you’re kind of stuck. To know that you have that behind you, it’s easier for guys to come here. Now that you’re here, it may change guys’ thoughts on coming here. If you have a good team, guys will be interested in coming here.”
On the ice, Ribeiro will be looked at to be a true No. 1 center, a valuable commodity that the team has lacked since the days of Jeremy Roenick in the late 1990s.