The Nashville Predators went bargain shopping to address their need for centers and picked out two veteran players looking for a fresh start.
The Predators signed Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy each to a one-year contract Tuesday. Ribeiro will make $1.05 million and Roy signed for $1 million.
Ribeiro, 34, was an unrestricted free agent after the Arizona Coyotes bought out the final three years of the four-year, $22 million contract he signed last summer. Roy was a UFA after playing for the St. Louis Blues on a one-year, $4 million contract last season.
"It's low risk with hopefully a higher reward," Nashville general manager David Poile said.
With Olli Jokinen, who signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract on July 2, the Predators are paying $4.55 million to the three players who could be their top three centers. That's $350,000 more than they're paying injured center Mike Fisher, who is out 4-6 months with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
Paul Gaustad, who appears in line to be Nashville's fourth-line center, is making more than Ribeiro and Roy combined ($3.25 million).
Poile said Ribeiro and Roy approached the Predators because of the opportunity they saw with the holes Nashville had down the middle.
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"They see an opportunity. That's good," Poile said. "We know there are a lot of good things with our team. We feel good about our goaltender and our defense, but our forwards need to produce more, need to be better. Now what we've done by signing Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro today, and Olli Jokinen two weeks ago, and also with younger players like Calle Jarnkrok, Filip Forsberg, Colton Sissons, we could have six new forwards on our team next year."
Ribeiro and Roy were in the free-agent bargain bin this summer because of subpar play last season and, in the case of Ribeiro, off-ice concerns that led to his early exit from Arizona.
Citing "behavior issues" in an interview with the Arizona Republic, Coyotes general manager Don Maloney convinced the Arizona owners it would be better for the Coyotes to pay Ribeiro approximately $11.67 million over the next six seasons not to play for them than to it would be to pay him $17.5 million over the next three seasons to play.
Maloney admitted the Coyotes made a mistake in signing Ribeiro to a four-year contract last summer. He said he didn't live up to the billing as a No. 1 center.
Ribeiro had 47 points in 80 games, his least productive full season since 2002-03, when he had 17 points in 52 games with the Montreal Canadiens.
Poile said the Predators did their due diligence on Ribeiro. He said they talked to former teammates, coaches, general managers and more people inside and outside Ribeiro's circle, including Predators forward James Neal, who played with Ribeiro in Dallas from 2008-11.
"It's well known that Ribeiro had some off-ice situations that he had to take care of. He has done that," Poile said. "He and his family were separated and now they're back together. He and his wife [Tammy] and three kids [Mikael, Noah and Viktoria] are trying to make a new life, want to make a new life for themselves here in Nashville."
Poile wouldn't divulge any details as to what Ribeiro has done to address the issues he was dealing with off the ice, saying it was personal information. He did say any further off-ice issues would not be tolerated.
"We can't have a distraction on our team. We can't have something that's affecting our franchise," Poile said. "Mike and his wife realize that. There is no tolerance for off-ice issues. This clearly is really his last chance."
Ribeiro appeared contrite and expressed his thanks to Poile and the Predators for giving him this opportunity when he met the media in Nashville on Tuesday.
"I'm committed to have a good year. I'm committed to my job," Ribeiro said. "Last year, it didn't go the way I wanted it to go in Phoenix. I had personal issues. I was separated during the year. I didn't really see my children during the year. I think that made me not focus on my job. I was really not focused and committed to my job because of my issues. I just wanted the year to be over so I could go and work on them, be a healthy person. I think I've done that this summer.
"My head is really clear," he continued. "I have my family with me right now and we're ready to move forward. I'm really glad that I have the chance to come here and prove to everyone that I can still play, that I am a good person, and that I'm committed to my family and the team too. I'm glad that I have a chance to do that."
The Predators didn't sign Ribeiro because they're interested in reclamation projects. They signed him because he has a history of being a high-scoring top center, something the Predators haven't had since Jason Arnott scored 33 goals in the 2008-09 season.
Ribeiro has averaged 62 points per season since the 2003-04 season. Nashville hasn't had a player score 60 points in a season since J-P Dumont had 65 in 2008-09. Defenseman Shea Weber led them in scoring last season with 56 points.
Ribeiro has 619 points in 749 games over the past 10 seasons, including a career-high 83 points in 2007-08 with the Dallas Stars. He had 49 points in 48 games with the Washington Capitals in 2012-13, when he played with Alex Ovechkin, who scored 32 goals and won the Hart Trophy.
In Nashville, Ribeiro will be reunited with Neal, who had 72 goals in 218 games with Dallas before he was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 21, 2011.
"We talked to Neal, and Neal very much supported him [Ribeiro] for our team and would volunteer very much to play with him," Poile said. "They had the chemistry in Neal's first year in the League. Ribeiro spoke very highly of Neal and vice versa. Right there it's a good situation for the Predators."
Roy is coming off his least productive full season since he scored 19 points in 49 games as a rookie in 2003-04. He had 37 points in 75 games with the Blues last season. He was a healthy scratch for two of their six games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Roy's production has waned since a five-season stretch from 2006-11 when he averaged 0.75 points per game (318 points in 420 games). He has played on four teams since (Buffalo Sabres, Stars, Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis) and has averaged 0.55 points per game (109 points in 197 games). He has had injuries to his knee and shoulder.
"Right before that I was basically a point a game player for four years in a row and then I got a couple of surgeries in a row," Roy said. "It's tough when you go into the summer not training and all you're doing is rehabbing your injury and trying to come back. It's been a tough few years bouncing around. Hopefully this is going to be good for me."
Roy said he moved to Toronto this summer to train with Gary Roberts, who trains several NHL players, including Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos and Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner. Roy said the program is putting him in excellent shape and he will be ready to try to become an offensive player again in Nashville. He was playing in a bottom-six role with St. Louis last season.
"I was always used to playing 19-20 minutes [per game] and to get down to 13 or 10, it's definitely tough," said Roy, who averaged 13:37 of ice time per game. "That was one of the things I looked at, where could I go somewhere where I could play to get back to the player I used to be. Nashville was one of the teams and they were there since the start. Hopefully down the road it's going to be real good for us."
The Predators also announced Tuesday they signed first-round pick Kevin Fiala to a three-year entry-level contract. Financial details were not disclosed.
Fiala turns 18 on July 22 and was the 11th selection in the 2014 NHL Draft after being named a finalist for rookie of the year in the Swedish Hockey League last season. The Swiss native scored three goals and 11 points in 17 games for HV71 Jonkoping last season after beginning his Swedish pro career with Malmo in 2012-13.
Nashville signed 21-year-old left wing Viktor Arvidsson, a 2014 fourth-round pick (No. 112), to a three-year, entry-level contract.
The 5-foot-9, 172-pound forward had 16 goals and 40 points in 50 games with Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League last season, and four goals and 16 points in 14 playoff games to help Skelleftea repeat as SHL champion.