Ex-Caps right wing Mike Knuble should get NHL contract

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Mike Knuble is an unrestricted free agent who needs a home. And it’s a good bet that the ex-Washington Capitals right wing will find it before the shortened 2013 NHL season begins.

Knuble, 40, experienced a down year in 2011-12, but he scored 20-plus goals in the previous eight seasons. Right now, he’s waiting for the new CBA to be official.

“You hear dates of when camps are going to open, are they going bring guys to the camps on tryouts? Are they going have to sign everybody?” Knuble said. “Who knows what’s going to happen here.”

What should happen as soon as a brief free agency period opens is Knuble signing a one-year deal, most likely as a role player on a contender.

Barring an unbelievable change of heart, the Caps won’t bring him back. But that wouldn’t stop the Detroit Red Wings, who just lost Tomas Holmstrom to retirement, the Pittsburgh Penguins or Boston Bruins. Penguins coach Dan Bylsma is a noted fan of Knuble’s.

Knuble talked about a tryout, but it’s believed that a guy with his resume should be able to get a guaranteed contract, even if it’s at or near the veteran minimum.

Because Knuble isn’t in retirement mode. Far from it.

During the lockout, Knuble skated with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League

“Every day they’re in town I’ve been on the ice with them. Having fun with those guys and playing and skating with the guys who are injured, skating with guys who are not playing, doing the little drills, I’ve been very active,” Knuble said. “That’s part of what kept me busy, that kept me really busy and pretty content was the fact that I was playing with those guys in the mornings. It was something structured. You knew you were going to play with good players.”

Knuble figures to play with good players wherever he lands with a contract. He could be used on the power play and as a third- or fourth-line right wing. A 48-game season figures to benefit Knuble and older players, even though he wasn’t sure if it would when talking about it in August.

“There are less games and you think less games are better for an older player, you don’t feel as tired toward the end. But at the same time, it games are going to be compressed. The games will be right on top of each other, there will be less days off, less days between games,” Knuble said. “It’ll be hard to say till you’re going through it. Who knows? I haven’t thought about it that way.”

According to reports, general managers can speak with agents now but are prohibited from signing free agents until the CBA is signed, sealed and delivered.

That’s a big unknown for Knuble, who wasn’t as lucky as Jeff Halpern (one year, $725,000 with the New York Rangers) to get a deal before the lockout began.

“I can’t even express how happy I am to have that deal in place,” Halpern said. “To go through this process and not know exactly what’s going to happen at the other end, it for sure will be a painstaking process on top of what it already was.”

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