Three possible Mike Ribeiro replacements for the Caps from the Western Conference

I asked through Twitter for suggestions on topics you’d like to see written about.

Here’s the first one we got back:

There are many different ways you can go with this.

Let’s take a look at a scenario where the Caps either deal Mike Ribeiro by the April 3 NHL trade deadline or don’t re-sign him and then seek to replace him via an off-season trade, the same way the team acquired him last June from the Dallas Stars for prospect Cody Eakin and a 2012 2nd round draft pick.

Before diving into this, if anyone has #fancystat-like insight they wish to provide on the players named below, I welcome and would appreciate your input in the comments. There are also people who follow the three teams mentioned below far more closely than I do, who may be able to offer better perspective on this from the other organizations’ angles. Please feel free to jump in and add your thoughts as well—and that goes for everyone.

10 Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers, Center

Shawn Horcoff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As good as he’s been, finding a replacement for Mike Ribeiro is far from impossible. You can comb NHL rosters and come up with a number of centers that might be a good fit for the Caps second line next year and that Washington could reasonably land in many cases, provided they are willing to pay the asking price.

Let’s rule out an in-conference trade for now and, partly for the sake of simplifying the list of options, focus on three teams currently toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings that might be looking to make some changes. These are also three teams that have not made the playoffs for several consecutive seasons, listed here along with the last time they qualified for post-season play: Calgary (2008-09), Colorado (2009-10) and Edmonton (2005-06).

One that might be better to avoid

We’ll begin with the option that seems to have the most people talking, but that might not make the most sense: Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche.

With a pair of 22 year-old centers in Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene on their roster, the Avalanche could move the 27 year-old Stastny to acquire other assets and free up cap space to fill other needs. Stastny’s numbers have declined the past two or three seasons, dropping below his current .86 points-per-game career average, but he’s still young and has shown the ability to put up big numbers; there have been three seasons when he’s posted just under or above a point per game.

One big issue with trading for Stastny is that he only has one season remaining on his contract, yet will likely cost a good bit to acquire given his age and abilities. If he can not be re-signed, Stastny would become a very expensive one-season rental.

Stastny currently earns $6.7 million, which is above what Ribeiro is likely to make going forward. However, if a team trades for Stastny and decides to commit to a long-term deal with him, it makes far more sense to give one to him at age 28 next year, than it does to sign Ribeiro to one at age 33.

As for the cost to acquire Stastny, Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner writes that the asking price is: “Likely Washington’s first-round pick in the loaded 2013 draft – possibly a top 10 selection, if not higher – and either an NHL roster player or one of the top prospects [Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg, Tom Wilson, Riley Barber and Philipp Grubauer].

If the Caps think they can work a deal like this in the off-season, the price they’d need to pay for a player like Stastny is even more reason to deal Ribeiro before the April 3 deadline, allowing Washington to stockpile a few more assets, including another first or second round pick in the deep 2013 draft if possible. But, with or without those assets, a move for Stastny really might not be the best one for the team to make.

The biggest concern of all with a trade for Stastny is that, with prospect Kuznetsov possibly coming to Washington as soon as a year from now, the Caps might not want to acquire a center as young at Stastny, who has such little time left on his deal and likely comes at great cost. The Caps may just need someone to fill the second line center roll for a season or two; it all depends on when Kuznetsov gets to D.C. and how quickly he adjusts to the NHL.

One that sounds like a pretty good fit, if he stays healthy

The Edmonton Oilers have a situation somewhat like the Avs, with two young centers in the picture that could make a more veteran player expendable. As 19 year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and 23 year-old Sam Gagner will likely fill the center role on the top two lines going forward, 34 year-old center Shawn Horcoff is an expensive player the team may want to move.

Horcoff is much older than Stastny and has not put up nearly the same numbers, but he’d likely come at a smaller price in trade and has two more seasons left on his contract, with a cap hit of $5.5 million.

Horcoff has also put up some decent power play numbers in the past and is known for his leadership and two-way play. He’s less similar to Ribeiro than Stastny is when it comes to offensive numbers, but would be an interesting option for the Caps to consider, especially given the time he has left on his contract and the current stage he’s at in his career.

Horcoff could potentially fill the Caps second line center roll next season and the season after if necessary, with Kuznetsov taking over when ready. The Caps could still look to re-sign Horcoff for less money after that, keeping him as a third line center, an option on the power play and for his defensive play.

One factor that must be considered with Horcoff though is injuries, which have been an issue at times in his career and could occur more the older he gets.

One that’s cheaper, if his current team wants to give him up

The Calgary Flames don’t appear to have a great deal of NHL-level depth at center, but do possess a pivot that could be an interesting fit for the Caps next season, though he’s certainly no Stastny in the offensive production department. He also comes with a much lower salary.

29 year-old center Matt Stajan has two seasons left after this one on a deal that pays him $3.5 million and, while he has not been putting up the same offensive numbers as Ribeiro has, he’s shown signs that he’s capable of contributing more points than he currently is. Perhaps inserting Stajan into what could be a more high-powered offense in Washington would bring back some of the numbers he put up with Toronto a few seasons ago (.72 and .75 points-per-game in 2008-09 and 2009-10 respectively), giving the Caps a decent second-line center without a long-term commitment or large cap hit.

However, of the three potential Ribeiro replacements discussed here, Stajan may be the player most likely to be held onto by his current team, given salaries and depth at the position.

That’s a start on some replacement options via trade. There are other teams that can be examined and the free agency market can be considered as well. Please use the comments below to add your suggestions or find me on Twitter at @mikeholden.

About Mike Holden

Mike Holden is on Twitter at @mikeholden.

Posted on March 29, 2013, in NHL, Washington Capitals and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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