Top-10 UFA Countdown: #1 Justin Williams

It’s an indication of the strength of this particular UFA crop that Justin Williams comes in number 1 on our list. That’s not to take anything away from the 33 year old, who has been a high-end winger for years. But his age and the fact that he’s only scored in the 40-point range the last two seasons goes to show there isn’t a lot of franchise changing players available to sign this summer. 

Despite those concerns, Williams remains a very useful player, in part because his value doesn’t merely come from his offense. As one of the few wingers who has proven he can push possession over the years, Williams is a guy who can play up and down the line-up and provide quality minutes to whoever inks him.

Track Record

Despite battling a panoply of injuries at certain points in his career, Williams scored 20+ goals and 50+ points four separate times, as well as multiple seasons at 50+ point pace (shortened by either harm or lockouts). He was also a key cog in winning three Stanley Cups: once with the Hurricanes in 2006 and twice with the Kings in 2012 and 2014. In fact, Williams has built a reputation as being a clutch player in the post-season, a rep that was cemented in the Kings recent run where he scored 25 points in 26 games.

Williams isn’t overly big or strong at 6’1″ and 189 pounds, but he thinks the game exceptionally well. His teams have outshot the bad guys with him on the ice forever because of his ability to anticipate and execute plays. 

Williams1

As you can see, Williams is always on the right side of the puck. The blue bubbles above indicate positive relative possession rates, which means even on the best possession team in the league (LA), Williams was better relative to most of his teammates. 

That’s one of the main reasons Williams has rarely been a minus player in the league. Though plus/minus is a stat rife with issues in small samples, it’s no coincidence that Williams has only suffered two minus seasons in a 16 year career and is a cumulative +92 over 918 regular season games. 

Future Performance

As you can see, there’s lots of reasons NHL teams may still covet Justin Williams. He’s got a champions pedigree, a long history of putting up a decent amount of points and is a rare complete player who makes his line mates better on both sides of the puck. 

The only issue is at nealy 34 years old, no one can really be sure how much longer that will last. Even for good-to-great NHLers, Williams is entering the stage of his career where things can go south rapidly. 

As mentioned, he recently put together back-to-back 40-ish point seasons, which is on the low end of his career norms. This past season his shots/game rate fell to 2.14, which is a concern for a guy who has always been a decently high volume shooter. A players’ shot rate is typically one of the first indications of a downward spiral. 

Contract Outlook

The issue for any suitors out there for Williams becomes one of term. On a one or two year deal, he’s probably a decent bet around $4.5M or so. After that, things start to get pretty dicey unless you can stretch things out a bit with a back diving contract. Williams was criminally underpaid on his last deal (making just $3.5M a year), but he’s unlikely to get a massive retirement contract this time around given his age.

The player and his agent will likely press for a 4+ year contract while many of the teams will press for one or two. There might be compromise in the form of a falling contract to the tune of 5-4-3-3 over four years, which averages out to about $3.75M per year. 

Unless some one gets crazy, that seems like a reasonable range to expect for Williams this summer. 

  • Double Dees

    I would kick the tires on a 2yr 7million.
    He would be a awesome winger for mcdavid.

    As a bandwagon kings fan, justin Williams is one of the best wingers on the half wall in the d zone. Very skilled in tight areas. He would mos def help us break out of our zone, which is out Achilles heel most nights.

    Leadership. Control. Winning attitude. Professionalism.

    This is a guy I would act aggressively with and try to sell him on being an oiler for the next few years. 3 max. Then we clear the way for our young guns to get paid.

    From ’06 killer to 2015 helper.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    Hm. I can only think about Defense as an Oilers fan but… if we can switch him for Purcell somehow and have him playing for McDavid and Hall on the second line…

    Ding ding ding ding ding??

    • Double Dees

      I believe PC is kinda pat with the D for this upcoming season. We have too many contracts on the back end to bring in one of the ufas. I say that for one year. But who knows. PC is not gonna fix the entire future of our defense in one off season. Ppl need to be patient. Not to spend in a bleak ufa class is key.

      This is why a winner is necessary. A true veteran like JW.

  • Ben Wilson

    @ Kent Wilson

    I’m guessing you special requested to do the FA profile on Williams. I understand he’s one of your favourites in this years crop, and mine too. Did you have to fight to get him ranked #1?

  • CofRed4Life

    He sure would be a nice right winger to play along with Monahan and Gaudreau… that would be a great top line. His age is the only thing I’m worried about. How much longer can he really keep up production?

    • RedMan

      one piece away from a cup in Calgary, this is the piece. With Calgary already having the best D in the NHL now, Williams can shore up the right side on the 1st or 2nd line while mentoring Porier and others. give his 15m over 4, bang. plan the parade.

      • CofRed4Life

        That’s true, but are we really just one piece away from real contention? I’m still not sold on our goalie situation. BT could still have something up his sleeve for that, but this would definitely fix the RW depth problem. Do you think he would take a contract that cheap? He is one of the best UFAs this summer, after all.

        • RedMan

          Assuming league average tending, but it will feel much better when a genuine #1 goalie is locked down for years. Hoping our current guys continue at least league Average while ortio and gillies come on.

  • everton fc

    The only way the Flames sign him is if Burke and Treliving, particularly the former, want to make a Cup run now. Burke’s not one for long rebuilds.

    Thankfully, Treliving seems most patient. The combination may be something spectacular for us Flames fans.

    • RedMan

      if our goalies give us a performance equal to last year, we may just be making a run. this team is, in my opinion, significantly better than last years team.

  • Captain Ron

    I love this player. Especially in the playoffs. His age scares me a bit but I wouldn’t be disappointed to have him on the team for two or three years.

  • Gary Empey

    One should really consider why LA is letting this guy get away. LA appears to be making a run for the cup this year. Do they feel he is past his sell by date?

    If the Flames really need a right winger to go deep in the playoffs, then why not go for the best that may be available. It is doubtful if Kessel was coached very well his whole time in Toronto. He has blinding speed. Terrific passer. He can freeze the defense then make a stick to stick pass through traffic. His wrist shot is deadly accurate. Just like Mike Bossy he is not much on the defensive part of the game. What Al Arbour did is put Bossy on a line with two more defensively responsible forwards and just let Bossy score goals. He is only 27.

  • Gary Empey

    One should really consider why LA is letting this guy get away. LA appears to be making a run for the cup this year. Do they feel he is past his sell by date?

    If the Flames really need a right winger to go deep in the playoffs, then why not go for the best that may be available. It is doubtful if Kessel was coached very well his whole time in Toronto. He has blinding speed. Terrific passer. He can freeze the defense then make a stick to stick pass through traffic. His wrist shot is deadly accurate. Just like Mike Bossy he is not much on the defensive part of the game. What Al Arbour did is put Bossy on a line with two more defensively responsible forwards and just let Bossy score goals. He is only 27. I read somewhere his father played a little bit for the Stampeders at a dark time in their history.

  • RedMan

    I’ll take a pass, too old, regardless of how reasonable the deal may look at the time, it’ll find come back to haunt, guaranteed.

    Speed and youth please, not old-timers.