This was not the easiest season for Mike Knuble. At 39, he saw his ice-time dip dramatically and his roles vary widely from top-six forward to fourth-line grinder. He was a healthy scratch for three different stretches between February and March and found himself sitting once more when the playoffs began.
This season was the first since 2001-02 that Knuble failed to record 20 goals and while he has lost a step, he proved in the postseason that he can still fill a valuable role on a team.
Knuble is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and said Monday that he would like to continue playing.
“I’m open to playing. I’d love to play,” said Knuble, who had a one-year, $2 million deal this season. “I feel good; my body feels good and I’ve got nothing nagging me. No nagging injuries or anything like that and that can be the case when you get into your upper 30s that you’ve got some chronic things going on. Mentally too, I still enjoy playing the game and I still enjoy coming out to the rink every day and I enjoy being around the other players and I think that that’s half the battle -- wanting to be there -- as you get older.”
Knuble was inserted into Washington’s postseason lineup in Game 4 against the Boston Bruins while Nicklas Backstrom served a one-game suspension. He didn’t sit again in the playoffs.
In 11 playoff games, Knuble recorded two goals and an assist. The assist came on Joel Ward’s series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7 against the Bruins. Knuble had blocked a shot, retrieved the puck and raced up ice before he barreled into the crease and tied up Tim Thomas as Ward scored on the rebound.
Knuble was an alternate captain in Washington and held the respect of his teammates in the dressing room and on the bench. At this stage of his career, though, he and the Capitals may have come to a natural separation point. When asked if he would return to the Capitals, Knuble was noncommittal.
“Well, there are a lot of people to be taken care of before me,” Knuble said. “That stuff will shake itself out in the next week or two. But as a player, it’s a great place to play.”