The Rangers have a depth problem. That was very evident in the series against the Bruins, and was exacerbated by the fact that Brad Richards wound up as a healthy scratch. With a Richards buyout imminent, the Rangers are left with a thin lineup down the middle in Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard, Brian Boyle, and Darroll Powe. Stepan is clearly entrenched as the #1 center going forward, and it appears that Brassard is better off as the #3 (Boyle as the #4, Powe to wing). The gap here, which solves the depth issue, is a #2 center that is capable of igniting the secondary scoring.
The list of UFA centers this year is very thin, with only a few names standing out as even potential candidates to fill the position from the outside. Mike Ribiero is someone who was linked to the Rangers before the Caps went on their run to win the Southeast Division, and he is still a candidate to fill the #2 center hole. Ribiero averages roughly 60 points per season, which is what is expected from a second line center. The big questions are about how he would fit into the organization’s current mold of north-south hockey, and if the new coach would be able to get the most out of the 33-year-old center.
Ribiero has quietly built himself a solid NHL career, and has managed to put up a minimum of 50 points a season since establishing himself as a top-six center in the 2003-2004 season. Quietly consistent, Ribiero has worked with numerous teams (Montreal, Dallas, Washington) and a plethora of linemates but has still managed to put up 397 points since 2007-2008 (428 games). That averages out to 0.93 points per game over the course of six seasons, good for 19th in the league in that stretch with over 300 games played.
The concern with Ribiero lies within the underlying metrics. This year he was relatively atrocious when it came to driving puck possession, which is odd considering how consistent he has been offensively. This season with Washington, he finished with a -10.3 RCorsi, despite facing minimal competition (-.031 Corsi Rel QoC). Those numbers do not show someone who maintains puck possession and pins the opposition in the defensive zone.
In terms of cost, Ribiero earned $5 million last season, and is likely to earn around the same amount of money this season. Since the cap is going down, it’s unlikely he would see a raise, despite averaging over a point per game this past season. This is the one season where UFA price is tough to predict, so assume the minimum Ribiero would cost is two years at $10 million total.
In a Torts system, Ribiero might not be the best fit. He’s not a north-south guy, and he’s more creative than he is grind-it-out. But this isn’t a Torts team anymore, despite the fact that this team was built to fit Torts’ systems. The biggest factor here will be the new head coach and how he will want this team to play. If they stay with the Torts north-south game, than Ribiero –despite his impressive offensive totals– might not be the best fit. If they go with an Alain Vigneault –and his 1-2-2 and less focus on grinding– then Ribiero might be a good pivot between any combination of top-six wingers the Rangers can throw out there.