After four seasons as a Philadelphia Flyer, Mike Knuble is set to be a free agent come July 1. He's been quite possibly the teams' most consistent forward over that stretch, notching just about 25 goals every season here and playing all 82 games three of the four years.
But now, he's 36 years old. He made $2.8 million last season and given the contracts of fellow Flyers who have similar production -- or in the case of Joffrey Lupul, less production -- he could be in position to earn a raise from that. The orange and black don't exactly have a lot of space under the salary cap, so giving an aging veteran a raise might not be in the cards.
This isn't a debate about whether or not Knuble deserves a raise or whether or not the Flyers should give him one. The fact of the matter is that there's a large possiblility that Knuble has played his last game as a Flyer.
That might not be a terrible thing, though, considering there might be a poor man's replacement right within our midst. James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers highly touted prospect who is entering the first year of a three year entry-level contract, possesses the same skills as Knuble -- and more. They are both big, powerful forwards who have a knack for putting the puck in the net.
van Riemsdyk, who will make $850k next season, would be about a $2 million discount from Knuble. He's a better all around player, with more speed and more raw skill than Knuble, but there is no guarantee that his skills will translate to the NHL immediately. He's a tall player but he has to put more bulk on his 6'3" frame, and until he does that, he might not be as effective at the worlds highest level of hockey. In that regard, a season with the Phantoms could be what the doctor ordered.
Knuble also provides important veteran leadership to this Flyers team, and that's something that JVR, or any rookie for that matter, cannot possess. He's one of the older players on the team and he's won the Stanley Cup. On a team with such a young and generally inexperienced core , Knuble is a critical asset that cannot be replaced.
Still though, there is also a strong possibility that JVR could make the Flyers out of training camp. He wasn't the number two overall pick in the 2007 draft for no reason. And if he does that, he possesses the size, speed, and talent to take Mike Knuble's spot in the lineup.