Justin Williams is back with the Carolina Hurricanes. The team made the announcement Saturday during the first day of NHL free agency, signing Williams to a two-year, $9 million deal. For fans of the team, it was a cause for excitement, a syringe full of hope being injected into the veins of playoffs desire. This simple transaction might make a difference in this coming season’s outcome, as well as with fan support. It was a great move for both the team and for Williams.
Williams said that around 10 teams had been vying for his services, but in the end it was coming back to the Hurricanes that made the most sense for him and his family. Compared to the $3.25 million he made with the Washington Capitals the past two seasons, Williams is getting a nice raise. He will make $5 million this season and $4 million in 2018-19.
Some have already questioned if he might be overpaid at 35, and did Francis feel the pressure to “do something” to appease the restless fan base. That question would most likely be answered “no” as Francis is methodical and appears unfazed by the clamor that can surround him from the media or the fans. The veteran leadership and experience that Williams brings to the ‘Canes makes this a deal that made sense to Francis.
Williams in Review
Williams was a member of the 2006 Hurricanes team that won the Stanley Cup. He has played in the NHL since being drafted in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He was selected 28th overall in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers and has not looked back. After three seasons with the Flyers, he logged five seasons with the Hurricanes.
Williams played the next seven seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and won the Stanley Cup twice more, once in 2012 and again in 2014 — also winning the 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs. His addition to the Hurricanes now gives them two players (Williams and goalie Cam Ward) who have won both the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy.
Williams played the past two season with the Washington Capitals, winners in 2015-16 and 2016-17 of the President’s Trophy as the team with the best record in the regular season. The conclusion can be made that Williams has been a winner throughout his career, and fans are hopeful he will be the boost the team needs to get back to the playoffs.
Coming Back to Carolina
Williams spoke with the media Saturday afternoon, and said there were a lot of emotions surrounding his return, “excitement being one of the big ones.” Williams said, “I’m excited to work with a coaching staff that I’m pretty familiar with, and a team that I feel is trending up in the right direction, for sure.”
Hurricanes general manager Ron Francis also met with the media and said, “He’s still showing he can score goals so we expect him to score some goals for us. He’s won three Stanley Cups in his career. He’s shown in the big games he rises to that level he needs to be successful.” Francis also said that Williams will provide leadership for the younger players in the locker room.
Former Hurricanes player, Rod Brind’Amour was lobbying for Williams before he was signed. After the deal was announced, the Raleigh News & Observer reported that Brind’Amour said, “It’s awesome. Obviously, I’ve got a bias. I know what he’s about as a person. That’s really the important thing for me.” Brind’Amour and Williams played together when the Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006.
Hurricanes head coach Bill Peters was also quoted as saying, “It’s an exciting acquisition. We had some holes to fill this summer and we filled them.” Peters had urged Francis to get some forward help this offseason. Francis has done that in bringing Williams back to the ‘Canes.
Williams said, “Listen, I’m a productive player. I’m a player who’s able to fit in anywhere. I feel like I’m a good complement to anyone I play with. I can help them get better and they can help me, as well.” There was already premature speculation by the media about Williams becoming the team’s captain. Williams said he knows that he will be able to provide veteran leadership, but also said that he is not here to play “Head Honcho.”
Beyond excited to begin the season and put the @NHLCanes jersey back on again. Watch out for the canes this year…👍🏒
— Justin Williams (@JustinWilliams) July 1, 2017
“We’re done losing,” Williams said. “It’s time to climb the ladder and get relevant.” Those are words Hurricanes fans agree with wholeheartedly.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.