Coming off dramatic letdowns (both on and off the ice) the past couple of seasons, Roy and Ribeiro needed a place to jumpstart their careers, and Nashville stood out to both players as the ideal location to restart. The former top-six forwards will help to bolster the Predators offensive attack up front next season, but what the team and city give back to them might be even more important.
“We did research as a family actually. We decided to ask our agent about Nashville because it seemed right,” Ribeiro said Tuesday. “I think this is a city that is family oriented. I think it was important for our family to be in a place that was comfortable [for all of us]. Compared to other cities, it was clear that Nashville is the best for us.”
Ribeiro is coming off his lowest point total in more than a decade (tallying 47 points with the Arizona Coyotes last season), but his off-ice issues have been discussed more than his abnormally-low scoring performance. On the day he bought out the three remaining years on the 34-year-old’s contract, Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said his club, “would not tolerate Ribeiro’s behavioral issues going forward.”
Without a job and in need of an opportunity to try and return to the elite-scoring threat he once was, Ribeiro needed a place to reinvent himself. The Quebec native’s search led him to scout the city of Nashville in person and call Predators general manager David Poile before finally feeling that the Predators were indeed the breath of fresh air he needed.
“[Don Maloney's] comments didn’t make me feel good of course. I didn’t have a good year last year, but I know inside of me that I have it in me to be better. Like David said, I want a new start, but a good finish too. I really want to do well this year and prove people wrong. If that happens then I guess Maloney is in the past. I think I’ve moved on and I’m ready to commit to a team and do well this year,” said Ribeiro.
The center’s desire to sign with Nashville wouldn’t have been enough if the Predators hadn’t also thought Ribeiro was a good fit though, and Poile said he did his homework before extending a one-year contract to the forward.
“I think it’s a little bit of everything. You’re looking to improve your hockey club and add the right players, and you do your due diligence on the options. Mike Ribeiro and his agent flew out here basically on their own dime to see if Nashville was a good fit, and we’ve gone from there. I had a Skype call with Mike and his wife where we barely even talked about hockey, we just focused on where he was at and how their relationship was,” Poile said. “Does Mike have some things in his life that he might regret? Sure, he’d be the first one to tell you that. Has Mike taken steps to rectify that situation? Absolutely. I’m very excited in a hockey sense that Mike is here, and I’m also praying that he and Tammy find a good life here in Nashville too.”
Adding one veteran needing a restart would have been interesting enough, but the Predators doubled up by also signing center Derek Roy on the same day as Ribeiro. Roy, a former first line player with the Buffalo Sabres, has swapped sweaters several times the past few seasons thanks to a couple of severe injuries. He–like Ribeiro–needs to show he can regain the elite play he’s exhibited in the past, and the 31-year-old turns to Nashville for the opportunity.
“Derek Roy wants and needs to re-establish himself at this point in his career due to injuries and his play–so that’s his responsibility I guess. But regardless, maybe he’s just been in the wrong place, and he can get better,” Poile said. “When he was in St. Louis he wasn’t in the best position to succeed, but we’ll be able to put him in that spot.”
“It’s been tough the last few years with injuries. I was basically a point-per-game player for four years in a row and then got a couple surgeries in a row. It’s been a tough few years bouncing around a bit, and hopefully this is finally the place for me,” Roy said. “I’ve only heard great things about the city and the organization. I’m really excited to get things started, and it’s a good fresh start for me.”
Both former 80-point scorers, Roy and Ribeiro have proven they have the talent to be elite-scoring forwards–something the Predators have lacked for essentially the 15 seasons they’ve existed. On the flip side, Nashville represents a big city with a small town feel and a passionate fan base that’s accepting of players in need of a fresh start–just what the pair of centermen require.
The one-year contracts given to the centers are a low-risk commitment by Nashville to the forwards; while the possibility that either or both might regain their offensive prowess could fill a big need for the club. That’s a surprisingly favorable situation for the Predators to draw out of an NHL free agency period that’s now more than two weeks old.
A favorable match on paper for both parties, the Predators appear to have found the No. 1 and No. 2 center in free agency that it seemed they’d missed on just a couple weeks ago. Both inked to one-year deals, Roy and Ribeiro will be given another season in the NHL, one in which they might be able to help put the Predators back in the playoffs for the first time in three years.
And if Nashville does indeed reach the postseason, then it’s likely Roy will once again hear what first excited him about the Predators several seasons ago.
“We were sitting there during a timeout trying to draw up some plays and the fans just came alive. They just kept cheering for the team the whole five minutes–or whatever it was–and we kind of looked at each other and said that was pretty cool,” Roy said. “I don’t think the [Predators] fans get enough credit for how great they are and the city of Nashville is just awesome too. Really friendly people here and that made it a lot easier to make the decision to sign.”
So perhaps the next time Roy and Ribeiro hear that roar from the Predators faithful, they’ll think not only of the second chances they’ve been given– but also of the place they can now call home.