Just when it seemed like things were slowing down for the summer, the Nashville Predators once again grabbed the attention of the hockey world with two major free agent signings. The team announced this morning that they have signed veteran forwards Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy to one-year deals.
“We weren’t happy with our offense last year and have done everything we can to this point to make it better,” Poile said. “Today we signed two very talented and experienced centers. Mike and Derek both have a lot to offer and will provide Head Coach Peter Laviolette with depth, options and flexibility going into training camp.”
Ribeiro has recorded 656 points in 845 NHL games with Montreal, Dallas, Washington and most recently Phoenix. The former All-Star is just one season removed from producing at a point-per-game pace with Washington, and is eager to join an organization where his offense will be utilized.
“I have a lot left in my career, and I’m glad Mr. Poile was willing to give me a chance,” Ribeiro said. “I am committed to my job, and committed to having a good year.”
After a series of off-ice issues were made public last season, Ribeiro has stabilized his personal life. He and his family have moved past a series of difficulties that Ribeiro openly admits affected his production in Phoenix.
“Last year didn’t go the way I wanted it to go,” Ribeiro said. “I had personal issues, and wasn’t able to see my children during the year. My family has resolved those issues and we are ready to move forward.”
A possible reuniting with former teammate James Neal on the Preds top line also has Ribeiro buzzing. In their three years together in Dallas, the two of them combined for 132 goals and 201 assists.
“I’ve been talking to James and he’s really happy to have me on board with him,” Ribeiro said. “We’re good friends. He’s a guy that can put the puck in the net. I’ve played with him before so I know what he likes. I think he’s happy that he has someone to get him the puck in scoring situations.”
Roy has also put up impressive offensive numbers throughout the course of his career. The 11-year vet was at his peak with the Buffalo Sabres from 2006-07 to 2009-10 when he had four consecutive 20-goal, 60-point seasons.
Since then, Roy has battled multiple injuries that have affected his ice time and offensive output. Poile and the Predators are confident he has made a full recovery, and is ready to return to form.
“Derek is injury free and in the best shape in his life. He’s looking to reestablish his career here with the Predators. Derek clearly brings us some added depth, some playmaking ability and some center-ice experience.”
Roy has dedicated his summer to training with former NHL All-Star Gary Roberts in Toronto. Since his retirement, Roberts has become a leader in high performance training and nutrition for many of the game’s top players.
“It’s a great one-stop shop for athletes who are trying to take care of their bodies,” Roy said. “Between the nutrition, the off-ice training and the skating, I’m feeling better than ever.”
Roy was one of the last ‘big-name’ free agents left on the market and admitted he had multiple options. During a conference call Monday afternoon, Roy shared a personal experience that influenced his decision to sign in Nashville.
“I’ll never forget one of the games I played in Nashville when I was with the Sabres,” Roy said. “During one of the TV timeouts we were trying to draw up a few plays, and the whole five minutes the fans were cheering as loud as they could so we couldn’t hear it. I remember just looking around at my teammates and saying, ‘wow that’s pretty cool; this would be a cool place to play.’ From that experience and others you can tell how great the fans are, and how much it has an impact on the team.”
For both Ribeiro and Roy, coming to Nashville and meeting face-to-face with the Predators staff was important. Both players spent time in Nashville touring the city this weekend before ultimately signing contracts.
“Free agency usually deals with a lot of talking on the phone,” Poile said. “In the cases of these players, both Derek and Mike took the initiative to come to Nashville to meet with us. It was nice for our staff to begin forming relationships.”
With the signing of Olli Jokinen, the Preds have now signed three free-agent centers in the last two weeks, all who have played on their team’s top line at some point in their career. With the wealth of talented youth in the system Poile believes signing these veterans will not just buy time for the youngsters to develop, but also provide immediate scoring for a team looking to improve in that category.
“We knew we needed to address our offensive situation and have been working on our roster for the last couple of months. Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy and Olli Jokinen have all been top-six forwards in the NHL. At one time or another in their careers they have all been known for their offense.
What’s even more important is that all of these moves fall right in line with Laviolette’s philosophy of playing an aggressive brand of hockey.”
The Predators now have 16 NHL forwards signed heading into training camp. With only 13 or 14 forward spots available, the competition will be stiff.
“The competition going into training camp is higher than it ever has been before at this position,” Poile said. “With the potential emergence of some of our youngsters we saw last year in Calle Jarnkrok, Filip Forsberg and Colton Sissons, we could have as many as six new forwards on our roster come October.”