Maybe the handwriting was on the wall for veteran winger Mike Knuble. His role changed this season from a top-line fixture to a third and fourth-line player, after all, and he was even a healthy scratch on-and-off late in the season, including the first three games of the first-round playoff series against Boston.
So when Knuble spoke with general manager George McPhee last week and was informed the team would not be offering another contract it wasn’t exactly a shock. After three eventful years with Washington, which featured a Presidents’ Trophy, two playoff series wins, a Winter Classic, his 1000th career game and also extreme highs (assisting on overtime winner vs. Bruins in Game 7) and lows (Game 7 playoff losses to Montreal and the New York Rangers), Knuble is moving on. At age 39 – his 40th birthday is July 4 – he believes he still has another year in him and will wait to see if an offer materializes when NHL free agency begins on July 1.
“Just being a veteran player, [general managers] level with you a little bit more,” Knuble said. “It’s not like I was blindsided. It’s just a formality to actually get the phone call for him to tell you.”
Knuble and his family – wife, Megan, and kids, Cam, Cole, and Anna, - will tie up the loose ends here in Alexandria, Va. and spend the summer back home in Grand Rapids, Mich. That’s where he’ll wait for a call.
“If a team is looking to fill a spot or realize they’re weak in an area I can be there to fill it up,” Knuble said.
Knuble scored 59 goals in three seasons with the Caps, but his production dipped to six goals and 12 assists in 2011-12. Some of that was how he was used. His power play time dropped from over two minutes in each of his first two seasons here to 1:08 per game. His even strength ice time went from 14:10 to 11:38. Apparently both Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter felt Knuble had slowed down in his advanced hockey age.
Knuble also was extremely unlucky with a 6.6 shooting percentage. In 16 seasons, only once before had he been below 10 percent. One of the defining images of last season was Knuble skating away shaking his head after dinging a post or a crossbar. He also says he feels fine physically. The “seven or eight” surgeries were all maintenance issues. Nothing lingering.
“Some veteran players can be in and out of the lineup, today he’s healthy, tomorrow he’s not healthy,” Knuble said. “I don’t think I bring that at all. So I take a lot of pride in being able to stay healthy. Sometimes pride isn’t enough, though. You need luck and fortune like that, too.”
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