(Winslow Townson/Associated Press)

With nine days remaining before the NHL trade deadline, no question looms larger for the Washington Capitals’ top brass than how to proceed with Mike Ribeiro.

Ribeiro, 33, is Washington’s leading scorer with 34 points (10 goals, 24 assists) and has filled what was a crucial need on the roster for a highly skilled second-line center this season. But he’s set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and Ribeiro could demand upwards of $6 million per season on the open market.

That backdrop makes for a strong case as to why the Capitals might try to re-sign Ribeiro, if they believe he’s the right fit for the organization going forward. If Washington can’t agree to a new deal with the Montreal native, though, the team could always opt to move him before the April 3 trade deadline.

Ribeiro, who is in the final year of a five-year, $25 million contract, knows that the next several days could have a significant impact on his future. He is open to the idea of re-signing in Washington, but he’s looking for a five-year deal that would offer stability for him and his family.

“I don’t want to move too much. If you can agree to a long term then I’ll be more than happy to stay here. I don’t know if I’m looking for two years and then change place then another two years. I don’t think I want that,” Ribeiro said. “Five years for me is long term. Two, three years I don’t think is long term. I think two, three short term. Four, five, six [is] long term and 10 years like Ovi, that’s a marriage thing.”

With three school-age children, being able to put down roots somewhere and minimize the disruption to their lives is a main concern for Ribeiro.

“Family comes first and if I can get a five-year [contract], then I’m 38. I don’t want to move them. I want to stay in a city for at least the next 10 years, until they’re done with high school and go to college,” Ribeiro said. “I don’t want to move them too much throughout school and then especially teenage age, it’s hard if kids move around. For me to be stable somewhere, if we can do that here, I think we’ll be more than happy.”

Ribeiro said the team approached him a month ago to discuss a possible extension, but with the Capitals struggling, he didn’t believe it was the right time to focus on his contract status.

With the deadline approaching and the Capitals now back in the postseason race after winning three of four on their recently completed road trip, Ribeiro expects to have a better idea in the next week of whether he will have an extended stay in Washington.

“This was a big week to see where we were,” Ribeiro said, referring to the completed road trip. “Hopefully I can stay here and sign a long-term deal with them. We’ll see what happens this week. I think this will be a big week for decisions to be made.”

Ribeiro has been traded twice before in his career, but never midseason. He understands the implications that a decision such as this one has for a team, though.  During the 2010-11 season, Ribeiro played for the Dallas Stars as that team grappled with whether to trade or try and re-sign top center Brad Richards. Dallas missed the playoffs that year but didn’t deal Richards at the deadline. Richards walked away in the offseason when he signed a nine-year, $60 million deal with the New York Rangers.

“They decided to keep him and then lose him for nothing,” Ribeiro recalled. “That hurt us at the end of it. That’s something I don’t want to do. If we can agree to something I’d be more than happy, if not then I don’t want to screw the team up.”