One month ago Mike Knuble saw the writing on the wall. His 15-year NHL career would end as a healthy scratch on a team that barely clawed its way into the playoffs.
But a funny thing happened in the weeks that transpired. Knuble returned to the Capitals lineup when Nicklas Backstrom was suspended for Game 4 against Boston and he never left.
The 39-year-old right wing finished with two goals and one assist in 11 playoff games and in the process rekindled his desire to continue his NHL career.
These games and these series and these playoffs, they do a lot for your internal fire, Knuble said following the Capitals season-ending 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in fame 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. They make you realize why you want to play. Well see what happens down the line.
Down the line is July 1, the day NHL free agency begins and three days before Knubles 40th birthday. If Knuble returns for one more season in the NHL it likely wont be in Washington.
Among the Capitals unrestricted free agents, he and 36-year-old center Jeff Halpern, who played in just two playoffs games as an injury replacement for Jay Beagle, are not expected to be re-signed. Forward Keith Aucoin and goaltender Tomas Vokoun also are expected to test free agency and the club will need to make difficult decisions on unrestricted free agents Alexander Semin and Dennis Wideman.
Knuble has said he will wait until July 1 to see if there is interest in him from other NHL teams. A final stop in Detroit, where his career began with back-to-back Stanley Cups, would be ideal.
If no offers come, Knuble said he will remember his final NHL season as another missed opportunity to win a championship in Washington.
They were one percent better than us tonight, Knuble said of the Rangers. You go back to Game 5 a 3-2 overtime loss and the last 30 seconds of that game. Its just a huge moment and huge swing of things.