Knuble said in a phone interview Wednesday that he has been informed by General Manager George McPhee that the Capitals will not re-sign him for the 2012-13 season. The veteran winger is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“I don’t think it was unexpected, the way things went this season,” Knuble said. “There are younger guys stepping up and those guys will need a spot to play and a chance to play…. It’s really the first time in my career that I’ve been told by a team they don’t want me back, but it’s not like I was blindsided.”
Knuble, who turns 40 on July 4, has said numerous times that he would like to continue playing but knows that his future rests in whatever the free agent market holds this summer.
“I was thinking the other day that my body feels as good as it did when I came into the league,” Knuble said. “At this stage of my career, you understand that nobody’s going to make long-term plans with you or give you a long-term commitment, but I feel I can contribute. People look at me being 39 years old, but I just view my age as a number. Physically, I feel good and I think I relate to my teammates very well.
“I feel prepared for anything,” Knuble added. “I could be in hockey, outside of hockey — but my first priority would be to keep playing. You can run all sorts of scenarios in your head but you never know what might come down the line.”
The 2011-12 campaign marked Knuble’s 15th NHL season, and it was arguably his most trying year in the past decade. After serving as a top-six forward for his first two years in Washington, Knuble’s role changed to that of a fourth-line grinder, his ice time diminished significantly and he was a healthy scratch for three different stretches between February and March.
Knuble finished the regular season with six goals and 18 points, failing to record 20 goals in the regular season for the first time since 2001-02.
When the postseason began, he was sitting once again. After being inserted into the playoff lineup when Nicklas Backstrom served a one-game suspension, though, Knuble earned a spot the rest of the way. He recorded two goals and an assist in 11 playoff games, bringing the dependable, net-crashing presence he built a career on.
In three years in Washington, Knuble played 220 regular season games, recording 59 goals and 52 assists while providing a stabilizing voice in the dressing room for his younger teammates. He recorded 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in 24 playoff games with the Capitals.
“I look back on it as it being a great place to play, a great stop for me,” Knuble said. “I think I had two very successful years here and I think I made a very positive impression on my teammates and the city. You hope that you left a little bit of a mark; you hope they have good thoughts pop in their head about how you treated people, how you behaved and how you played.
“My only regret is that we didn’t win,” Knuble continued. “We had a lot of great pieces — they still have a lot of great pieces here, and they’ll be back in the thick of it next year. You just wish you could have been a part of winning it here, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be.”
More on Knuble:
Knuble a “typical rink-rat dad” (Nov. 2011)