From the time the Capitals acquired him from the Dallas Stars at the 2012 NHL draft, Mike Ribeiro made it clear he wanted to make Washington his home for the long term.

He found a house in McLean, Va., enrolled his three children in school and helped coach his two sons’ hockey teams during the lockout.

So when he put up one of the best offensive seasons of his career – 49 points and a league-high 21 power-play assists in 48 games – Ribeiro thought he had done enough to remain with the Capitals for the rest of his playing career.

Instead, the Capitals were unwilling to meet Ribeiro’s contract demands and on Friday, less than an hour into free agency, he signed a four-year, $22 million contract with the Phoenix Coyotes, well above the reported three-year, $14 million offered by the Caps back in March.

"I was surprised," Ribeiro told reporters after Friday’s signing. “I moved there, moved my family too. My thinking was, if I had a great season they'd keep me there, or find a way to keep me there, but obviously we couldn't. Once I confirmed they couldn't re-sign me, my first option was Phoenix. And that's what we went for."

To be fair, the Caps would have had difficulty fitting Ribeiro's annual $5.5 million salary into the $8.5 million of space they currently have, especially since they still need to sign defenseman Karl Alzner and left wing Marcus Johansson.

Still, Ribeiro said his first option was to stay in Washington and that did not change until it was clear the Caps would not meet his demands.