The Arizona Coyotes took no time making a big move on the first night of their new name change. Unfortunately for Arizona hockey fans, the move entailed buying out the contract of their number one center. Now the Coyotes will not only be moving through the summer in search of a top line center, but will also be moving through the next six years having to annually pay roughly $2 million against their salary cap. As word of the insolvent buyout began to spread, fans were left simply confused as rumors of what exactly it was that caused the new owners of the newly named Arizona Coyotes to eat that much of a top line center’s contract after just one season.
GM Don Maloney certainly did not hide his displeasure with the troubled center, stating that when the front office looks at the older players on the team, that “there (is) certain things we accept and certain things we can’t and it doesn’t matter how much they make.” Maloney continued on to say that they “(were not) naive of (his) past” and that they thought “it could be manageable.” Unfortunately for the entire organization, as Maloney simply put, “it was a mistake.”
Ribeiro has always had a reputation of being somewhat of a “bad boy”. Arriving in Phoenix before the start of last season, Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan reported on his questionable past. According to the piece, he had a terrific rags-to-riches story; a story the fans and players in the desert alike could truly rally around. However, after the riches came a life marred with more tumult.
The changes in his scenery- from Montreal to Dallas, Dallas to D.C. – always seemed to mark a new chapter in his life. A chapter renewed in the promise of a more mature Mike Ribeiro. In the article, Ribeiro himself eluded to the daily struggle of living life with a wife and kid after the kind of life he had lived in his 20’s. Don Maloney may have inferred to that very struggle when mentioning how “(Ribeiro) is getting help this offseason.”
No one knows which side of the 34-year-old center decided to show up on and off the ice last season, but it was the kind that never ended up truly being a part of the “pack”- pun intended. As time rolls on and teams begin to search for top of the line centers, the story of what exactly happened between Ribeiro and the clubhouse will certainly begin to unravel. Until that time, the Arizona Coyotes will be forced to rebuild and move on.
Maloney finished with the press by saying that “this (move) doesn’t necessarily make us a better team next year per se, but it makes us a better organization in the long-term”; reassuring fans that that’s what they are looking for, “long-term success.”
With that being said, this “mistake” now proves to be a rather costly one for more than just the salary hit the team will be taking over the next six seasons. It shakes any sort of confidence fans may have had in the team coming into next season, which could hit the new owner’s pockets in a variety of ways.
The team garnished a league-high attendance growth a season ago, but maintaining that attendance now could prove hard to accomplish with no sign of the front office attempting to put an immediate winning team out on the ice. At the risk of this all turning completely negative, the Coyotes will actually have some wiggle room to possibly make a big move in free-agency. With Ribeiro being bought out, Arizona’s payroll dropped from $51.4 million to roughly $47 million, leaving the team with around $10 million left in their set budget.
The Arizona Coyotes front office is set to make the next move, but whether or not they choose to completely rebuild or simply just retool by trade or free-agency will unfold soon enough. In the meantime, fans will be left confused in the wake of the Mike Ribeiro buyout, clinging to the hope of a bigger- and better- move to come.
Commentary by Ryne Vyles