The Washington Capitals, on the first day of free agency, inked veteran winger Mike Knuble to a two-year, $5.6 million contract. Knuble, 37 on Saturday and late of the Philadelphia Flyers, has scored 21 goals or more each of his last six seasons and has two 30-goal seasons to his credit.
Captials General Manager George McPhee already envisions the gritty winger occupying the spot vacated when Viktor Kozlov departed for his homeland in the off-season.
"We just felt we needed someone else, a player on [the top] line in particular with [Alex] Ovechkin and [Nicklas] Backstrom that will go to the net," McPhee said. "Mike's made his living there. He was the right guy for us and we got what we felt what was the right deal for him. We replaced a 13-goal scorer [Kozlov] with 27-goal scorer, and the team is better as a result."
In addition to his willingness to sit in the crease, Knuble has been praised for his two-way play, comfortable on the power play and the penalty kill.
Now that the Caps addressed their primary need via free agency, McPhee doesn't see too much more involvement adding players in that method. "I said that we're probably not going to do a lot in free agency unless there was something there that made sense. We did it. It was unanimous amongst our pro staff that this was the right guy."
Washington still has a glaring need for a second line center, and if McPhee will probably look to move the untenable contracts of Michael Nylander or Jose Theodore in that search. Barring that, the Caps have very little room under this season's salary cap to make another free agent splash.
"We'll spend the next couple of months talking to clubs and seeing what other things can be done out there," McPhee said. "If there are other things to do, we'll do them."
Fan favorite Donald Brashear accepted a two-year deal from the New York Rangers for $1.4 million per season, a significant raise from his D.C. salary.
"We are happy for Brash," McPhee said. "But we couldn't pay that number."