The Arizona Coyotes announced Friday they have initiated a buyout of the remaining three years of center Mike Ribeiro's contract.
Ribeiro had 16 goals and 31 assists in 80 games for the Coyotes in 2013-14 after signing a four-year contract last July. He becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign with any team other than the Coyotes.
Ribeiro, 34, has 202 goals and 656 points in 865 NHL games.
In an interview with The Arizona Republic, general manager Don Maloney said behavorial issues with Ribiero led to the buyout after one year of the deal.
"Mike had some real behavior issues last year with us I felt we could not tolerate going forward," Maloney told the newspaper. "To his credit, he has been getting help this offseason and obviously would hope he continues. But at the end of the year and all the background checking and what happened, we felt that for us to move forward, we couldn't have him a part of this team."
Under the formula for buyouts in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Coyotes will have to pay half of the remaining money on the contract across twice the remaining years. The buyout counts against the Coyotes' salary cap.
"We realize this is a fairly significant cost to us, but we also know we have to have certain people and leaders here to make us successful and certain levels of behavior we'll tolerate," Maloney said. "Hey, we all have our issues and no one's an angel. When we're looking at older players, there's certain things we accept and certain things we can't and it doesn't matter how much they make. They have to do the right thing for the organization, and we feel this is the right thing."
Not only does the buyout cost the Coyotes money, but it leaves the roster weakened. Despite his struggles, Ribeiro was Arizona's No. 1 center.
"This doesn't necessarily make us a better team next year per say, but it makes us a better organization in the long-term and that's what we're looking for: long-term success," Maloney told the newspaper. "Obviously, now we have some holes we have to fill. We do have some financial flexibility to do that, and that's what we're searching to do."