SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It has been the missing piece for the Phoenix Coyotes for a decade or more, and perhaps the single biggest obstacle to coach Dave Tippett's attempt to bring a legitimate Stanley Cup contender to Arizona.
Wanted: A legitimate, playmaking, No. 1 center. A give-and-go partner for Shane Doan who can put the puck on net for his crease crashes. A distributor and scorer who can lift an anemic power play back to at least pedestrian status.
From Martin Hanzal to Daymond Langkow to Matthew Lombardi to Kyle Turris to Antoine Vermette, the Coyotes have pounded a series of square pegs into a critical round hole, keeping their fingers crossed that production by committee would make up for the absence of a top-tier pivot.
But like the Coyotes jersey that slipped over Mike Ribeiro's shoulders at a press conference Friday, Phoenix is hopeful the 33-year-old is finally the perfect fit, not only a player who will bring out the best in wings Mikkel Boedker and Doan, but one who will allow Hanzal and Vermette to settle into more comfortable roles. The Coyotes are investing $22 million over four years with hope that Ribeiro, who had 67 goals and 220 points in three seasons playing for Tippett with the Dallas Stars (2006-09), still has plenty left to turn a reunion into a return to the postseason -- and more -- for the Coyotes.