#22? / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
Jul 04, 1972
2 years/$5.6 million; UFA after 2010-11 season
1 (with autographed photo on eBay to prove it)
But now that the dust has settled a bit, what, exactly, do the Caps have in their newest addition, a winger who turns 37 this weekend?
- A goal-scorer. Knuble has averaged 27.5 goals over the last half-dozen NHL seasons, and lest you think he's slowing down, the past three seasons have been three of the top five per-game goal-scoring campaigns of his career. Since the outset of the 2002-03 season, Knuble is 19th in the NHL in goals scored (Alex Ovechkin, incidentally, is sixth, despite only playing in two-thirds of those seasons).
- A power-play presence. Did the League's second-ranked power-play really need a shot in the arm? As long as 25.2% is still less than 100%, yes, and Knuble has been a force with the extra man, finishing tenth among NHL forwards in goals-per-sixty-minutes of five-on-four time this past year (minimum 40 games and two minutes of five-on-four time per game). And with that big body causing havoc in front of the net, even when he's not deflecting shots past goalies or burying rebounds, the power play will be better. Scary.
A veteran presence. While Knuble's career playoff numbers leave a bit to be desired, his leadership doesn't. Put simply, when the old man is crashing the net and getting beaten up in front, it sends the right message to a young team (and whether it's been due to the captain's injury or other veterans' unwillingness to play that game, it's a message that has been sorely missing in D.C. for some time). It's hard to think of a better player for guys like Brooks Laich and Eric Fehr to emulate.
- A durable winger. Knuble has played in all 82 games in four of his last five seasons (and that's a fact, not a jinx).
A solid defensive forward. Knuble blocked 48 shots last year (11th among NHL wings and more than any Cap forward other than David Steckel), he's only been a minus player once since 2001, and he had 37 takeaways to just 26 giveaways in 2008-09. He even killed more than two minutes of penalties per game last season for the sixth-best PK in the League.
A Penguin killer... Knuble has scored more goals (23) against the Penguins than he has against any other team in the League over his career, and lit the lamp four times in six regular season games against Pittsburgh last season (he added another two in the playoffs as well).
... with something to prove to Philly. "The terms were the same, a 2-year deal, the same terms, but the salary that [general manager Paul Holmgren] could offer, based on his cap situation just wasn’t what we were looking, wasn’t even fair," Knuble said of his efforts to stick with the Flyers. A little extra incentive against a Conference contender can't hurt, can it? (Nor can taking a top six forward away from that contender - the Flyers' loss here is easily overlooked, but shouldn't be.)
Mike Knuble isn't the final piece to the puzzle for the Caps (and no, despite the nickname, Rob Scuderi wouldn't be the piece either), but he's certainly a piece, and a big one at that. When one considers all that the Caps are getting in Mike Knuble and that they're getting it for just $300,000 per year more than they were paying Viktor Kozlov (who literally doesn't have a single one of the attributes detailed above) and only committed themselves for two seasons, there's no way around it - this is a great deal... on paper.
Oh, and one last thought - Knuble wouldn't even criticize the Verizon Center ice when given the opportunity, so you know the guy signing the paycheck is on board.