Mike Ribeiro admitted Friday his first choice would have been to stay with the Washington Capitals, but when he realized that wasn't going to be a possibility, he turned to what he believed was the best option for him.
Ribeiro, one of the top centers available on the NHL free-agent market, signed a four-year contract with the Phoenix Coyotes.
The deal reunites Ribeiro with coach Dave Tippett. Ribeiro spent three seasons (2006-09) playing for Tippett as a member of the Dallas Stars and said the chance to play for him again was a huge reason the Coyotes were at the top of his list.
"I think having the trust of your coach and having a coach that believes in you and will give you an opportunity to do well or put you in a position to succeed," Ribeiro said, "I think that was my No. 1 goal. To go somewhere knowing the coach and knowing a little bit of what they were looking for and what my role was going to be and being comfortable, and being able to communicate with the coach. He's done a great job there in Phoenix. He knows what he can get from me and I know what he wants and I'm ready to work for that."
Ribeiro was second on the Capitals in 2012-13 with 49 points in 48 games, ably filling the role of second-line center for a team that won the Southeast Division.
"I was surprised," he said. "I moved there, moved my family too. My thinking was, if I had a great season they'd keep me there, or find a way to keep me there, but obviously we couldn't. Once I confirmed they couldn't re-sign me, my first option was Phoenix. And that's what we went for."
Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said he was happy to oblige Ribeiro.
"We are thrilled to sign Mike to a multiyear contract," Maloney said. "Mike is an elite playmaker who has exceptional vision and creativity on the ice. He has tremendous offensive skills with great patience with the puck. Our head coach, Dave Tippett, is very familiar with Mike's game and believes he will be an excellent addition to our hockey club."
Ribeiro said the fact the franchise will be staying in Arizona was another selling point for him.
"I'm trying to be stable somewhere for a while, that's important," he said. "The fact that they confirmed they'd stay there for a few years, that's a good thing. Obviously that was a big part."
A 1998 second-round pick (No. 45) of the Montreal Canadiens, Ribeiro has 186 goals and 609 points in 785 games with the Canadiens, Stars and Capitals.
Ribeiro said he was familiar with goalie Mike Smith -- the two were together for a few seasons in Dallas -- but otherwise said he didn't know any of his new teammates, other than from playing against them. However, the knowledge he did have had him excited about the future.
"Playing with Shane Doan, I've been playing against him for a lot of years," Ribeiro said. "Mike Smith … to see Mike Smith again, he was the backup when I was in Dallas and now he's one of the top goalies, that's just a plus for us. To have a young team, a good team, some young defense that can move the puck, I'm excited to be a part of it and hopefully I can keep doing what I'm supposed to do and help the team win."
The Coyotes on Friday also signed goaltender Thomas Greiss to back up Smith. In parts of four NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Greiss has a 17-16-3 record with a 2.52 goals against average and .912 save percentage. He played six games in 2012-13.
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