Heading into Tuesday nights action, the Toronto Maple Leafs occupy a playoff spot, sitting fifth in the Eastern Conference with 31 points on the season, good enough for the sixth best record in the NHL.
While everything sounds warm and gushy for the Blue and White, Toronto currently sits a mere five points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets (whom the Maple Leafs will play Tuesday night) and just three points ahead of the New York Rangers, who occupy the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
With the NHL standings so close and with many teams getting set to add a roster player on or before the NHL trade deadline of April 3rd, it appears as if Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis should be looking to make a move.
The Leafs currently sit seventh overall in league scoring, averaging 3.04 goals per game. Conversely, the Leafs sit 13th overall in goals against, giving up an average of 2.65 goals per game.
Given the Maple Leafs considerable investment in defense and the fact that John-Michael Liles ($3.875 million cap hit) and Mike Komisarek ($4.5 million cap hit) are sitting on the bench most nights, it is hard to believe Nonis will make a move for defensive depth.
Toronto has long been looking for depth at centre. Looking around the NHL several teams will be looking to sell off some of their assets. One of those teams will likely be the Washington Capitals, who currently sit 12th in the East, seven points back of the Rangers (who have two games in hand on the Caps) for the eighth seed.
This off-season, the Capitals acquired Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars for young forward Cody Eakin and a second-round choice (No. 54) in the 2012 NHL Draft. Ribeiro is in the final year of his contract which pays him $5 million, making him an affordable option at the trade deadline.
Under the terms of Ribeiro’s contract he can specify a list of ten teams that he would not accept a trade to. That said, getting a chance to make a playoff run and increase his value heading into another free agent summer, Ribeiro would likely be happy to move to any playoff team.
One of the teams Ribeiro should consider is the Toronto Maple Leafs.
With Tyler Bozak currently playing the first line centre role and Mikhail Grabovski struggling to fulfill the second line centre role, Ribeiro could be the perfect insurance policy for the Blue and White for the stretch run and (fingers crossed) a playoff run.
Through 761 career NHL games, Ribeiro has registered 182 goals, 406 assists, for 588 points. He is a career plus-4 and has 63 power play markers on his resume. While Ribeiro may not be the most defensively responsible player in the world, he does stay out of the penalty box, averaging around 35 PIM’s per season.
This season, through 24 games, Ribeiro has nine goals (five on the power play) and 28 points. Ribeiro’s nine goals came on just 32 shots, which gives him a 28.1 shooting percentage!
At 33-years old, Ribeiro could bring a veteran presence to the Maple Leafs as well as a measure of playoff experience. Through 42 career playoff games Ribeiro has registered five goals and 25 points, including a three-goal/17-point effort in 2007-08 (the last time he played a playoff game) with the Dallas Stars.
Given the fact that the Capitals gave little up in order to land Ribiero and the fact that he is in the final year of his contract, it is pretty safe to say they will not be looking for much more than a mid-tier prospect or a third round draft pick for Ribeiro.
When you consider Ribeiro’s consistency (he has averaged 50 or more points eight seasons in a row prior to this season), experience and ability to be creative offensively, he would be the perfect fit on a Maple Leafs roster that could use some offensive depth.
As a bonus, Nonis could gage how well Ribeiro fit in with the Maple Leafs and decide if he was worth pursuing this off-season.
Ribeiro may not be the best acquisition at the deadline, but he might just be the perfect fit in Toronto.