So long, Ribs

We've witnessed yet another example of Gainey's Dallas connection. Off to cattle country is Mike Ribeiro and the Habs' 6th round pick in 2008 in exchange for Janne Niinimaa and the Stars' 5th rounder next year.

Contractually, Niinimaa will be either the highest paid or 2nd highest paid defender on the team at around $2.5M. He will be a UFA at seasons' end. Ribeiro was signed for the year at $1.9. He may have one more year of RFA status - I'm not sure.

Those are the facts. Now for the editorial.

Dallas had an overabundance of defensemen (Mirtle called it). Perhaps Gainey took notice and recognized the opportunity to exchange one problematic player for another.

The lack of blueline depth hurt Montreal last season, so from that perspective the move makes sense. On the other hand, Saku Koivu suffered a highly publicized injury and a little insurance at centre would be nice to have too. The centremen are shaping up to be Koivu, Plekanec, Bonk and Begin. Any contingency plan would likely involve Mike Johnson and/or Chris Higgins. Either Gainey knows Koivu is A-OK, or he's willing to roll the dice with this group of replacement pivots.

I have not been a fan of Mike Ribeiro. He's a skill player whose production dropped substantially in the '05-06 New NHL, presumably because the guy just can't skate. He's small and easily knocked off the puck. Then there's the on- and off-ice drama, and the whole local French media thing. His ink has outweighed his performance throughout his career.

The Koivu situation makes me nervous. How would Montreal fans react to minimum-wage earner Tomas Plekanec centering the #1 line? Don't get me wrong - I like the idea of Plex moving up the depth chart. Something tells me the local
paying customers might not be as forgiving.

As for Niinimaa, how the holy hell do you rack up a -5 in 22 games with the Stars?? He was benched for some playoff games last season, too. I hope Gainey wasn't remembering the 1999 vintage of Niinimaa when he made the deal. $2.5M seems like an awful lot to pay for a #5-6 defenseman.

Always the straight shooter, Gainey commented on the unique playing environment in Montreal and it's effect on francophone players. He also said that the team's younger forwards were stepping up in training camp, and that additional defensive depth was needed.

Yes, the Habs have a lot of promising young wingers. Centres? Not so much. Is the "upgrade" from Komisarek to Niinimaa worth losing last season's #2 centre?


Anonymous kazmojo said...

Since you bring up the nationality thing, I wonder if Gainey thinks Niinimaa might respond to playing with Captain Finn himself? If he's paid that much, he must have some potential, and Koivu is the quintessential leader.

But Niinimaa isn't an upgrade on Komisarek. Komisarek is one of the top four, along with Rivet, Souray and Markov. He's turning into a hard-hitting, stay-at-home dman, which pairs nicely with Markov's offensive instincts.

In fact, it sounds like Niinimaa will have to compete with Streit for the 6th spot, until Bouillon returns. This is just a depth move, which is what the Habs need more than anything on the blue line.

In any case, the proverbial bag-of-pucks would have been enough of a return for Ribeiro. And as far as centres, assuming Koivu isn't ready, I'd see Higgins, Plekanec, Bonk and Begin manning the lines, in that order.

10/01/2006 1:35 p.m.  
Blogger Doogie said...

My first thought was that Gainey still doesn't trust Streit. Happy to see Mickey Ribs (was that a Jack Todd thing or a Red Fisher thing?) gone, as I never thought he was worth what he was paid, nor particularly worthy of the jersey.

Niinimaa is interesting. He was good for a while with Edmonton, but man, is he an adventure in his own zone. I have to think he's past the stage in his career where he can be taught a whole hell of a lot, so if Carbo and Co. can keep him honest, that's just gravy.

10/01/2006 6:40 p.m.  
Blogger fauxrumors said...

1) Habs fans will soon learn why Niinimaa has played on so many teams in his relatively short career.
2) He has not shown he can adapt to the "New NHL." Makes frequent mistakes and takes tons of stick foul penalties.
3) FAUXRUMORS predicts he doesn't last the season in the red/white/blue

10/02/2006 11:12 a.m.  
Blogger fauxrumors said...

Who will win the scoring title? Vote today!


10/03/2006 11:42 a.m.  
Anonymous Josh said...

Jeff J I can't find any contact info for you on this site, but have a look at www.sportspuppy.com, we'd be interested in having you contribute to the site, covering the Habs. Sorry for the intrusion.

10/04/2006 4:37 p.m.  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

jeff - a lot of Niinimaa's issues have stemmed from injuries - the Oilers shipped him out in a season where he was playing through a bad back, I believe, and he also had an ankle injury last season, I think

If he is healthy and by all accounts he is then he may bounce back and having a guy who can slip into the top four easily is not a bad thing. Although I understand your fear about the hole down the middle.

Although with Ribiero I think its a lot of addition by subtraction as well.

Watched the game last night and Janne looked alright, noticed he was on in the OT as well.

Not a bad thing.

10/08/2006 5:12 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Niinimaa's play last year can NOT be blamed on any injury. He was healthy almost throughout, yet displayed an apparent lack of understanding of the new rules.
2) If he becomes a top 4 defensemen for the Habs that will NOT bode well for their chances of making it into the top 8

10/09/2006 3:54 p.m.  

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