Mike Knuble was told recently by Capitals GM George McPhee that Washington would not bring back the 39-year-old winger, who will turn 40 on July 4. Could his last — and likely last — NHL stop be back with the Detroit Red Wings?
Knuble was a 1991 draft pick of the Red Wings and played 62 regular-season games for them during the 1996-97 and ’97-98 seasons, the latter of which ended with a Stanley Cup crown. Now, Knuble, a Michigan resident and former University of Michigan star, has his eye on a return to Hockeytown, according to what he told CSN Washington:
CSN: You have a home in East Grand Rapids. Would the Detroit Red Wings be a possibility?
Knuble: We are going back that way and we are going to live in Michigan, probably the rest of our lives, or at least until the kids go to school and are out of college. Detroit would be a neat story since I was drafted there. I’ll make no secret about that. That would be a nice way to come back around. You don’t have that luxury, but maybe a team has a hole and I can fill fit for a year until a prospect develops.
Knuble played for the Rangers, Bruins, Flyers and Capitals after his two seasons with the Wings. He was a terrific addition in Washington for his first two seasons, notching 29 goals in 2009-10 and 24 the next season. But his play tailed off last year and he wound up with just 18 points (6 G, 12 A) in 72 games.
That swoon combined with his age should keep Knuble's price relatively low this summer. The Wings have expressed an interest in finding a fourth-line grinder and could use another net-front presence on the power play, especially if Tomas Holmstrom retires.
Knuble fits the bill on all counts there -- he had 21-plus goals in every season from 2002-2011.
The downside, of course, is the age issue. The Red Wings would love to get younger, especially with Nicklas Lidstrom retiring and forcing the franchise to focus a little more quickly on the future. At best, Knuble probably has one or two seasons left in him.
Would an aging Knuble be a better fit on the Wings' power play and fourth line than a youngster like Jan Mursak, Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar? Is he an upgrade over a Drew Miller or Patrick Eaves?
The Wings' current roster could still change between now and September, but as things stand, there are several forward spots already locked up. Detroit would have to determine that Knuble's a more reliable option than a younger, quicker alternative.
And he may be just that. After all, Detroit badly needs a gritty, physical player in its lineup, as the playoff series with Nashville showed. If Knuble has anything left in the tank, the Wings seem likely to at least take a look.