So you want to be an NHL general manager? The problem Capitals GM George McPhee faces this week with veteran center Mike Ribeiro will make you rethink that one.

Let's break down the issues as Washington decides whether to sign Ribeiro now, trade him before the April 3 deadline, allow him to test the open market starting July 5, trade his rights in late June for a smaller return or let him walk and allocate that $5 ?million in salary-cap space elsewhere.

Every one of those options comes with risk. The Caps could keep Ribeiro, 33, and still miss the playoffs. They could sign him to a long-term deal only to see him decline rapidly as he ages. The Caps historically have tried to stay away from such contracts to plus-30 players anyway. The 2007 signing of veteran center Michael Nylander, 34 at the time, was a complete disaster.

A trade of Ribeiro's contract right after the season likely will bring little of value in return. But a trade at the deadline almost certainly means cutting short a playoff run and leaving a giant hole at second-line center for next year that must be filled.

For his part, Ribeiro admitted he's not willing to jump at Washington's current three-year, $14 million offer. He's pretty confident a better deal is waiting if he hits the open market and has said he wants a "long-term" contract -- in his description at least four years. And that's an issue if the Caps want to keep him for a shorter term.

"But decisions are always to be made and choices," Ribeiro said after a Thursday practice at Kettler Iceplex. "We'll see where we're at on both sides."

- Brian McNally