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PRO HOCKEY: Ribeiro tops Capitals’ offseason decisions
ARLINGTON—Mike Ribeiro reiterated his desire Wednesday to stay with the Capitals past this season, but said he doesn’t think he “should have less than four or five years” on a new contract.
The 33-year-old second-line center had 13 goals and 26 assists after arriving via trade last June from Dallas. He is the Capitals’ top unrestricted free agent, but the team is reportedly hesitant to offer a contract of the length he wants.
“It’s not only me,” Ribeiro said. “I have a family and I want to make the right decision for them and for the team, too. If I stay here, I want to have a chance to win. I don’t want to be selfish and just think about me but what’s best for the team, and if I can be a part of it, I’ll do so.”
Ribeiro said he’d like to be flexible with the money if it would help the Capitals sign other players who can help them move deeper into the postseason. They lost to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on Monday, marking their sixth straight exit in the first or second rounds of the playoffs.
Washington currently has approximately $5.5 million in available salary cap space, though that number could change if it uses amnesty buyouts on players making over $3 million next season.
Forward Matt Hendricks is the only other unrestricted free agent whom the Capitals appear to have interest in re-signing. Hendricks has carved out a role as an aggressor on the fourth line, but this summer could be the only chance for the 32-year-old to pull in a larger long-term contract.
“I hope I don’t get to that date in July,” Hendricks said, referring to the potential of signing a new contract before free agency begins on July 5. “I hope I’m back here in Washington. My wife, kids and I have made this our home, and we’ve come a long way here in the three years that I’ve played here. We really enjoy it, and I really enjoy the guys that I come to work with every day.”
Defensemen Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson will be restricted free agents, and the Capitals are expected to at least make a qualifying offer to each player. Alzner, who has played every game over the past three seasons, hasn’t even thought about the possibility of signing with a different team.
“That would be weird,” Alzner said. “That would be, honestly, really weird. Like I said earlier, I don’t know anything but here, so it would be strange, but I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to that kind of stuff, and I don’t really know.”
Brooks Laich would have returned to the ice for the start of the Eastern Conference semifinals had the Capitals defeated the Rangers on Monday.
Laich had surgery to address a groin injury in early April and played in only nine games this season. He returned to practice midway through the first-round series and targeted a Game 5 return, but the team’s medical staff didn’t clear him.
“It was tough,” said Laich, who injured the groin playing in Switzerland during the lockout. “My heart is always going to trump my head when it comes to playing, so to have a medical staff and a general manager and a coaching staff that care about your well-being and your career as a person, I’m very appreciative of that.”
Martin Erat said he likely would have also returned for the start of the second round. Erat sustained a dislocated left elbow when he collided with Rangers forward Derek Stepan early in Game 4 and missed the final three games.
McPhee voiced his concerns about officiating to the NHL office after the Rangers had 28 power play opportunities to the Capitals’ 16. New York was tied with Chicago for the fewest penalties in the league during the regular season, and Washington only allowed two power play goals all series.
“I didn’t like the refereeing, but if you complain about it during the series, you’re accused of trying to gain an edge,” McPhee said. “If you complain about it after a series is over, then it’s whining and sour grapes.”
The Rangers still took it that way. Head coach John Tortorella told New York reporters Wednesday: “We’ve got everybody and their brother whining out there in Washington about what happened in that series, and I think that’s a big reason they lost that series.”
THE FUTURES MARKET
The Capitals remain unsure of what to do with 19-year-old winger Tom Wilson, who made his NHL début in Game 5 after finishing his season with Plymouth of the Ontario Hockey League. McPhee said the team may ask him to play juniors again, though he admitted that would likely stunt his growth.
McPhee has been reassured by Evgeny Kuznetsov, the team’s first-round pick in 2010, that he intends to play for the Capitals when his two-year contract with Traktor Chelyabinsk expires after next season. Kuznetsov, considered the Capitals’ top prospect, wanted to play for Russia in the Sochi Olympics next February and believed staying home would be his best opportunity to do so.
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