Justin Williams free agency: Drawing interest as productive veteran

Justin Williams is going to get a ton of money, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

At 35 years old, Williams is on the final years of his NHL career. With the way he played last year, one wouldn’t know he’s on the wrong side of 30.

Last season, the 16-year veteran tallied 24 goals and 48 points in his second season with the Washington Capitals. According to Hockey Reference, he had his highest career shooting percentage at 14.4 percent. His Corsi and Fenwick ratings were both above 50 percent, signaling that the Caps possessed the puck well with Williams on the ice.

Williams’ contract with Washington expired, and with T.J. Oshie and Dmitry Orlov signing deals, it is unlikely the right winger reunites with them in the nation’s capital. And so, he hits the open market, presenting a quandary for front offices: how many years and how much money do we give an aging player who’s still producing?

Justin Williams’ Value

Justin Williams free agency

Williams won two of his three Stanley Cups with Los Angeles. Photo by Victor Decolongon, Getty Images.

He has the most value in his overall experience in the postseason. In 140 playoff games, he’s notched 94 points while winning three Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe trophy in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final.

During that postseason, Williams scored nine goals and 16 assists. Even as the elder statesman with the Capitals this past year, he recorded nine points in 13 games. As perplexing as it is to outsiders, players and fans know that Justin Williams is reliable in the playoffs.

Justin Williams can help any team that needs a championship-caliber player with his playoff expertise. Combine his resumé with need and teams should fork over the dough to sign him.

Justin Williams’ Cap Hit and the RW Market

Looking at the rest of the free agent market, he can sign at about any time that he wants. Williams is the second-best right wing on the block. Alexander Radulov is the top name on the right side, but they’re both different players at different points in their careers.

Radulov enjoyed a breakout campaign with Montreal after a stint in the KHL. At 30 years old, he still has a handful of good years left. Teams are likely to ink him to a longer deal than Williams. Radulov will go to a team that wants him for the long haul. Williams should sign around a two to three-year deal.

The Capitals paid Williams a modest $3.25 million the past two seasons, per CapFriendly. He hasn’t made more than $4 million in his career. Based on his overall recent production, he should achieve that milestone. Justin Williams can use his play at an old age as leverage to raise the monetary value. Teams will balk at 35 years old. Anything more than three years is excessive. Two or three years, until his skating and his scoring declines, are the fairest lengths for both sides.

Justin Williams free agency prospects

Justin Williams has his own list of coveted places. His list is reportedly down to three, though it is unsure what those teams are. Yesterday, TSN’s Darren Dreger listed Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and the New York Islanders as teams interested in him (he said the quoted tweet is incorrect so it has nothing to do with his commentary).

The Islanders are looking to add another productive scorer as they look to return to the playoffs. CapFriendly says they have $9 million to play with in cap, so they won’t pursue another big free agent if Williams signs there. Plus, they’d have to shuffle their lineup to accommodate him. Jordan Eberle, Josh Bailey, Josh Ho-Sang and Cal Clutterbuck are all right wingers. Williams would have to slot elsewhere or the Isles have to swap someone on the roster.

Justin Williams free agency

Justin Williams may join the orange and white next year instead of roughing them up. Photo by Rob Carr, Getty Images.

Would Justin Williams return to the city where he made his NHL debut? The Flyers have slightly more cap room than the Islanders, but still less than $10 million. However, Williams is a great fit for a team that needs to replace Brayden Schenn’s output. Williams can fit on the second or third line and help a team with postseason potential. Philadelphia is an up and coming team. With Williams’ veteran leadership, he can push them over the top in a daunting Metro Division.

Of these three teams, Tampa Bay makes the most sense. Williams would be their best winger not named Nikita Kucherov. With over $20 million in cap space, the Lightning can afford to overpay him while not restricting their budget. If that’s what it takes for Tampa to replenish their forwards, then they should’ve already been on the phone when midnight struck today.

Justin Williams, at 35 years old, is still a capable NHL player and is one of the better free agent options. Word is he wants to stay in the East, though it’s unknown what teams he is interested in playing for. Whichever team he signs with, they will pay big bucks to land him, but receive a valuable piece for it.

 

Feature image by Nick Wass, AP/Photo courtesy of the Washington Post.

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Can the Caps Break Their Playoff Curse?

In the offseason, everyone knew the Capitals were going to be a good team.  But who would have known they would go on to win the second Presidents trophy in franchise history? With goalie Braden Holtby in net anything is possible for this team.

Image result for tj oshie

Recently acquired T.J. Oshie (capitals.nhl.com)

After another playoff disappointment in the 2015 season, second year general manager Brian Maclellan had enough. During the offseason Maclellan set out to build one of the most explosive lineups in the NHL. In doing so he brought over St. Louis Blues right winger T.J. Oshie, and two Los Angeles Kings forwards in Justin Williams, and Mike Richards. With these additions to an already lethal offense, the Capitals started to look like a serious contender.

T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams, both right wingers, have really found their place on the Capitals. Both have more than 45 points on the season. Mike Richards unfortunately has only played 32 games this year but could be a key asset in the playoffs having Stanley Cup experience.

One of the biggest surprises of the year is the performance of Evgeny Kuznetsov. In only his second full season, Kuznetsov is leading the team in points with 73. 23 year old Kuznetsov is also currently 4th in the league in both Assist and plus/minus. The playmaking Russian is often playing alongside fellow Russian teammate Alexander Ovechkin

The goal scoring machine Ovechkin once again finds himself atop the goal scoring leaderboard. Ovechkin is currently at 44 goals on the season, and looks like he may come a bit shy of the 50-goal mark which he has surpassed six times in his career, but a tremendous season without a doubt.

Braden Holtby, goaltender extraordinaire, is on the verge of history chasing the record of most wins in a season (48) held by Martin Brodeur. With only six games left, it’s tough to tell if he will break the record. Also keeping in mind Holtby may want some rest for what could be a long playoff run coming.

Braden Holtby making a great save (russianmachineeverbreaks.com)

The only thing looming over the Capitals at this point is the fact that they have had such little success in recent playoff appearances. In three of the past four years, the Caps have lost to the New York Rangers in the playoffs.

The team was founded 1974 and still has not won a Stanley Cup final. Alexander Ovechkin has taken it upon himself to bring home the trophy to D.C.

The Caps look to turn it around this year while having home ice advantage the entire playoffs. As the standings are today the Capitals would be matched up with the scrappy Philadelphia Flyers. Hypothetically saying they win that series, the next series would be against either the Pittsburgh Penguins, or the dreaded New York Rangers.

Ovechkin has some good years left in him only being 30 years old, but will he ever have a better team then he has right now? In my opinion if they don’t get it done this year it may never happen. Ovi will go down in history as one of the best players to never raise the Cup.

What to watch: 3/31

Predators vs. Penguins –Two playoff teams looking to finish out the year strong.

Senators vs. Wild –Wild looking to stay in the playoffs, Senators look to play spoiler