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Capitals get bigger, stronger with Knuble

Wednesday, 07.01.2009 / 5:21 PM / 2009 NHL Offseason News

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

Seeking a net-front presence and perhaps some North American flavor to complement Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom on the top line, Washington Capitals GM George McPhee got it in Mike Knuble on Wednesday.

The Capitals confirmed that Knuble signed a two-year contract worth $2.8 million per season. Knuble played all 82 games for the Philadelphia Flyers last season, totaling 27 goals and 20 assists. He played the last four seasons with the Flyers, scoring 114 goals -- including 49 on the power play -- and 221 points in 310 games. He had a career-high 34 goals in 2005-06.

"Although I'm happy with the way we've played, we just felt we needed someone on that line with Ovechkin and Backstrom that will go to the net," McPhee said during a conference call. "Backstrom and Ovechkin will have the puck a lot and we need someone to be around the net a lot and Mike has made his living there."

Knuble, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound right wing, obviously is looking forward to the prospect of playing with Ovechkin and Backstrom. At the very least he'll get a lot of opportunities for rebound goals since Ovechkin will send more than 500 shots on goal.

Viktor Kozlov played right wing opposite Ovechkin and Backstrom for most of last season. He had just 13 goals, and recently signed to play in Russia next season.

"We replaced a 13-goal scorer with a 27-goal scorer," McPhee said. "The team is better as a result."

Knuble also has a history of playing with superstars, as he played with Joe Thornton in Boston and Peter Forsberg in Philadelphia. He played with Mike Richards and Simon Gagne last season, and also saw lots of time on the power play and penalty kill.

"I know what to do for these guys (superstars), how to work, win battles in the corners and do the dirty work to get these guys the puck," Knuble said. "I take pride in that. I'm hoping for a chance to play with (Ovechkin) and I'm hoping we mesh quickly and have a lot of success."

It became apparent to Knuble on Tuesday that Philadelphia was not going to be able to re-sign him, so he went into Wednesday with an open mind. He had heard Washington was interested and is excited to get the deal done because the Capitals offer him everything he wants in an employer.

"I guess you don't know who is serious until noon on (July 1) and Washington was a team we heard might be interested," Knuble said. "It's everything I want in another team. It's on the east coast and a team that is considered one of the top teams in the conference. I think this team is on the verge of something good, maybe something great. If it wasn't going to work out in Philly, I wanted to go to a place where I could contend and have a great city to live in."

While the Capitals' power play ranked second in the NHL behind Detroit at 25.2 percent this past season, Knuble has the ability to help the unit because of his net-front presence. He has at least 10 power-play goals in each of the last four seasons, including 11 in 2008-09.

"He's a right-handed shot on the power play and someone that will go to the net and stand in front of the net," McPhee said. "I think he'll make the power play better."
"Although I'm happy with the way we've played, we just felt we needed someone on that line with Ovechkin and Backstrom that will go to the net. Backstrom and Ovechkin will have the puck a lot and we need someone to be around the net a lot and Mike has made his living there." -- Capitals GM George McPhee
Although Knuble turns 37 on Saturday, McPhee said age should not matter. Since Knuble didn't start playing a full-time role until the 2000-01 season, when he was 28, he believes he has a lot more still to give.

"I like to consider myself a low-mileage guy," Knuble said. "The guys that play a lot by the time they get to 37, they have the back problems, the knee problems, the shoulder and the wrist problems. As frustrating as it was to sit on the fourth line (early in his career), in the long run it has been a blessing."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.









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