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Flyers want Mike Knuble back

The Flyers want and need Mike Knuble. Knuble wants to remain a Flyer. So why is the veteran right winger getting closer to becoming an unrestricted free agent?

The Flyers want and need Mike Knuble.

Knuble wants to remain a Flyer.

So why is the veteran right winger getting closer to becoming an unrestricted free agent?

Money, of course.

Both sides talked again yesterday, but if nothing gets worked out, Knuble will become a free agent tomorrow and can begin talking to other teams. The arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins are believed to be one of the teams interested.

Knuble, who will turn 37 on Saturday, would settle for a two-year deal. He hinted that the Flyers don't seem against it.

After meeting yesterday with Knuble's agent, Kurt Overhardt, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said the club was "hopeful" of re-signing the winger.

"Mike is a guy we want to bring back, and Mike has said the same thing to me," Holmgren said.

Last season, Knuble was one of three Flyers to play in all 82 games, and he scored 27 goals, including 11 on the power play, and created havoc in front of the net with his 6-foot-3, 230-pound body.

With right winger Joffrey Lupul included in Friday's trade for standout defenseman Chris Pronger, it seems that the Flyers have more urgency to re-sign Knuble.

In fact, the trade caused Knuble to walk into Holmgren's office at the Skate Zone in Voorhees yesterday.

"Because of what happened over the weekend, I wanted to see if anything had changed," said Knuble, whose agent met with Holmgren later in the day. "It's all a process, and we just have to see where I fit in."

With Lupul (25 goals) gone, the Flyers will be shy of proven right wingers if Knuble signs elsewhere.

"If Joffrey and I are both to leave, that's 50 goals [actually 52] that are being given up," Knuble said. "That's a big chunk to lose."

Because he is over 35, the Flyers can load the contract with incentives and sign Knuble to a contract that is much more cap-friendly than the $2.8 million he made last season.

Knuble scored just one goal in his last 10 regular-season games, and he made costly mistakes that contributed to Pittsburgh goals in the first two playoff losses.

But he has been one of the Flyers' most consistent players in recent years. He has scored 34, 24, 29, and 27 goals, respectively, in the last four seasons. He played in all 82 games in three of those seasons.

"I feel like I'm no risk because I've been healthy," Knuble said. "I feel like I have a lot more mileage left."

Knuble would like to play on a Flyers team that has the best chance to win a Stanley Cup since he signed as a free agent in 2004. The deal for Pronger has made the Flyers a strong contender.

"He's going to be an awesome addition," Knuble said.

Defenseman Braydon Coburn agreed.

"I think he will be great for our team," Coburn said. "Growing up, he was one of my favorite players. I am pretty sure I had a poster of him on my wall. He is one of those special players in the league."

Holmgren said Pronger, who will turn 35 on Oct. 10, was "in the prime of his career" and that he hoped to begin talks on a contract extension shortly with the defenseman's agent, Pat Morris.

Pronger is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $6.25 million.

"Obviously when we were looking to do this trade, we certainly knew his contract status," Holmgren said. "Moving forward we recognize that there is work to be done in order to get that completed."

Breakaways. Holmgren reiterated he doesn't think Luca Sbisa's groin injury will affect the Pronger deal, but Anaheim GM Bob Murray said he had no comment on the matter. Sbisa will be examined by one of the Ducks' doctors. . . . Coburn on the trade: "Obviously I am a little sad to see [Joffrey Lupul] and my roomie, Sbisa, take off. But to add a guy like Chris is great. I am excited to watch him play and learn from him and see him on an everyday basis." . . . Robert Esche will remain in Russia and will not be the Flyers' backup goalie. . . . James van Riemsdyk, the Flyers' first pick in the 2007 draft (No. 2 overall), and 20 other prospects will be training at the Hollydell Ice Arena in Sewell, Gloucester County, tomorrow at 11:30 a.m.