It did not take long for Mike Knuble to find a new home. Same with Brian Boucher, who found his old home again. And while the Flyers were at it, they signed free-agent right wing Ian Laperriere to a multiyear contract.

Within hours of the start of free agency, the Flyers free-agent winger agreed to a 2-year contract with the Washington Capitals. The deal calls for $2.8 million per year.

Knuble said he was disappointed that he was not able to work something out with the Flyers, but felt that their offer just wasn't good enough.

"The terms were the same, a 2-year deal, the same terms, but the salary that [general manager Paul Holmgren] could offer, based on his cap situation just wasn't what we were looking, wasn't even fair," he said.

"It's only been less than 24 hours I figured out I wasn't going to be in Philly. All things considered I feel good, yesterday not so good. But today good because you have got to move on. All things considered, you have to move on with it.

"We drove back to Michigan [Tuesday] and we stopped in Ohio and somewhere in Ohio I got the call that [Holmgren's] final offer was. We didn't feel it was very reasonable and it's just kind of the way it worked out.

"I was very disappointed that it wasn't going to work. It was kind of a sleepless night, [Tuesday] night in some strange hotel with my family trying to make our way back to Michigan."

Knuble turns 37 on Saturday and the market value for him seemed unclear. Instead he was quickly pursued.

Despite his age, his best years in the NHL have been his last 4 years with the Flyers, and the 2 before that in Boston.

In each of those seasons, Knuble has scored more than 20 goals. He had 27 goals and 20 assists last season, and had a home on the Flyers' power play as the big body in front of the net.

He is also a balanced, mature veteran who adds stability and leadership in a young locker room.

"We needed someone to go to the net," Capitals GM George McPhee said. "Mike's made his living there."

So in the first few hours of NHL free agency, the Flyers lost a 27-goal scorer but brought back an old friend in backup goalie Boucher. Boucher signed a 2-year contract for $1.8 million that brings the former starter back to the team that drafted him. Boucher played for the San Jose Sharks last season. He will be the backup to Ray Emery.

Laperriere is 35. He scored seven goals and had 12 assists in 74 games with the Colorado Avalanche last season. He led the Avs with 163 penalty minutes and played in his 1,000th NHL game in April.

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More in tomorrow's Daily News.