Photo credit: Robyn Pennington
Justin Williams is trading the sunny, seaside shores of Southern California for the history and grandeur of Washington, D.C.
Late into the opening day of free agency, the Capitals announced that they had signed Williams to a two year, $7.5 million ($3.25 AAV) contract.
Instantly, hearts were broken as hopes were dashed that he would re-sign with the LA Kings.
Initial reaction across the fan base:
Williams is known throughout the NHL for his “clutch” scoring abilities, especially in Game 7’s. However, he was so much than that. He’s one of the league’s best play drivers and has been throughout most of his career. Since the beginning of the 2010 season, Williams has helped his team generate more shots than anyone else. He is bested only by his teammate Jake Muzzin, who is mostly just a corsi god of defenseman.
Long term, Williams didn’t fit with the Kings’ plans. He’ll be 34 at the start of the season and, despite being a good play driver, doesn’t score a lot of goals and will not likely score a lot of goals, especially playing in the bottom six. The trade for Milan Lucic was designed to help shore up some of the lack of offense, but unfortunately comes at the expense of being able to re-sign Williams as well as extend Anze Kopitar.
It’s a somewhat curious decision as having Williams gives the Kings extraordinary depth in their bottom six where they’ve often struggled. And as noted earlier, he’s an elite play driver, something that Milan Lucic is not.
Though you won’t find quite as many Williams jerseys as, say, Kopitar jerseys, he was still a fan favorite. He did a lot of little things right on the ice, was always thoughtful and honest in his responses to reporters and always seemed the most chill out of all the players, not to mention his famous speech before Game 6 during the Stanley Cup Final in 2012.
Williams’ popularity has come a long way since he was acquired in 2008 from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Patrick O’Sullivan. It was a highly criticized move at the time; fans were puzzled as to why General Manager Dean Lombardi would move out a future core piece in O’Sullivan for an older, slower, oft-injured player. At the time, many thought that Lombardi was just getting his ex-Flyers fix in. However, Lombardi saw something in Williams that no one else did and it paid off — twice.
Now, almost eight years later, Williams has become a dearly beloved member of the Los Angeles Kings and will be greatly missed.
Stick taps to Stick. Thank you for everything and good luck in Washington. We hope you find success with the Capitals and get your name on that big, shiny trophy many more times!