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Capitals Sign Mike Knuble to One-Year Contract Extension

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals

There were 34 forwards aged 35 or older in the NHL in 2010-11, and only three of them scored 20 or more goals; only three of them had as many as 200 shots on goal. Just nine of them recorded 40 or more points. Only 11 managed to play in as many as 75 games, and of those 11, only four averaged more than 17 minutes per night. Only three of the 34 forwards aged 35 or older in 2010-11 finished the campaign with a defensive mark of plus-10 or better.

Finally, only one of those 34 forwards achieved all of the above: 20 or more goals, 200 or more shots on goal, 40 or more points, 75 or more games, plus-10 or better while averaging 17 or more minutes per night.

That one player is Caps right wing Mike Knuble. On Monday morning, a day after the conclusion of the 2010-11 NHL regular season and two days before the start of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Capitals announced that they have agreed to terms with Knuble on a one-year contract for the 2011-12 NHL season.

“He’s like fine wine,” says Caps coach Bruce Boudreau of Knuble. “He just keeps getting better. The last half of the year, he’s been arguably our best player. When you’re getting up in age a little bit, that at the end of the year you’d be a little bit more tired. I think his minutes have increased year after year. It’s not fatigue. He’s in great shape.”

Knuble, who will celebrate his 39th birthday on July 4, was the 10th oldest forward in the NHL in 2010-11. Among those older than him, Calgary’s Craig Conroy has already announced his retirement from the NHL.

Boston’s Mark Recchi (81 games) was the only player older than Knuble to play in more games in 2010-11; Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne (31 goals) was the only player older than Knuble to score more goals. The Islanders’ Doug Weight and Detroit’s Mike Modano have at least hinted at retirement, and it’s possible that Knuble could be one of the five oldest players in the NHL by opening night of next season.

“It’s a point in my life where you don’t need to be out chasing things if you’re in a good spot and feel like you’re with a team that has a chance to win all the time and contend. That’s a very important thing and a very important thing for you and your family, to stay in that spot. I’m happy with my decision.

“My kids, they don’t even know yet. I’ll go home and tell them and they’ll be thrilled that they get to go to the same sports and their teams and their schools next year. That’s very important to us.”

Knuble is also one of only five active players in the NHL with 20 or more goals in each of the last eight seasons, a distinction that puts him in the company of Calgary’s Jarome Iginla (12 straight), Chicago’s Marian Hossa (11 straight), New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk (nine straight) and Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis (eight straight).

Detroit’s fourth choice (76th overall) in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft, Knuble finished up the 2010-11 season with 268 career goals in 968 games. One more healthy season in the league would put him over the 1,000-game mark for his career, an achievement that would give Knuble a great deal of pride.

“I’m looking forward to that,” says Knuble of reaching 1,000 games. “It’s a big milestone for me. It means different things to some people. Maybe some people don’t care, but it’s a big deal to me. I’ve got to play 32 games next year. You hope you stay healthy and have a spot in the lineup.”

At 43, Recchi is the oldest player in the NHL. Knuble doesn’t have specific designs on how long he’d like to play, but he’s in no hurry to hang up his skates, either.

“I’m going to delay it as long as I can,” says Knuble of his eventual life after hockey. “It’s year to year now. I’ve been pretty lucky; I’ve stayed pretty healthy. I don’t have any nagging issues. You just hope your [quality of] play can stay up as much as you can keep it up.

“Time gets us all, eventually. It’s going to catch up to everybody. I think playing with good players, being put in the right situations to succeed can delay that.”

Knuble labored for half a dozen seasons as a fourth liner with the Red Wings, Rangers and Bruins before finally breaking through with his first 30-goal season with Boston at the age of 30 in 2002-03. That was the first of his eight seasons with 20 or more goals. Knuble has reached the 30-goal plateau twice during that span.

Knuble will enter the 2011-12 season with 268 career goals. With a strong and healthy season, he could take a run at the 300 mark. That’s an impressive feat for a guy who had 50 career goals when he celebrated his 30th birthday.

“I believe in this team,” says Knuble. “I believe in this group and I believe in the players we have here. I’ve enjoyed playing here. I’ve been very fortunate. Every city I’ve played in, I didn’t want to leave. I’m thrilled to have the ball in my court and work with [Caps GM] George [McPhee]. I wanted to stay.”

“He’s a consummate professional,” says Boudreau. “We’re a lucky group to have him for another year.”

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