Justin Williams, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Mr. Game 7.
The Los Angeles Kings team management and President/General Manager Dean Lombardi have a tough question to answer. The question is Justin Williams. Does he stay, or does he go?
Williams is set to become a free agent in two weeks time. Will the Kings elect to keep him or let him go?
“No one can ever replace a Justin Williams, but at this point it appears to be time to start looking for the next best option.”
L.A. is facing a daunting task of keeping their core of champions together. The list of free agents is a large one: Jarett Stoll, Tyler Toffoli, Andrej Sekera, Andy Andreoff, Martin Jones, Jamie McBain, Nick Shore, eight other prospects, and at the top of the list Justin Williams.
Williams finished 6th on the team in Kings scoring this season. In 81 games played Williams put up 18 goals, 23 assists, 41 points, +8 plus/minus, 4 power-play goals and 2 game-winning goals.
Williams just finished his 7th season (6th full season) with the Kings this past weekend. Williams numbers from this season are the lowest he’s had with the Kings, discounting the two seasons of 2009-2010 and 2012-2013 where he played fewer than 50 games.
However in 26 playoff games in 2014, Williams scored 9 goals and 25 points en route to winning his 3rd Stanley Cup and 1st Conn Smythe. Two of Williams goals were game 7 game-winning goals.
If the Kings were to resign Williams he would be 34-years-old when L.A. starts the 2015-2016 NHL regular season (Williams birthday is on October 4th).
Is it worth resigning Williams? Williams cap hit for the 2014-2015 season was $3.05 million. That’s not outrageous. At least, it’s not like Mike Richards contract.
It might be sad to contemplate, but was Saturday the last time KingsNation will see Justin Williams in the L.A. sweater?
After this past seasons performance that might be the case. It’s not that JW is bad or not worth the money, but the simple truth seems to be that he’s not the player he once was. Not even since last season.
Dean Lombardi and the Kings style for the last half a decade has been to bring up players that can contribute now and will grow for the future. If right now Williams isn’t contributing more than the next kid waiting in the wings, is it worth delaying development of the next potential Kings winger for the legacy of a current one?
With the emergence of Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, who need to be and were just resigned, is there room for Williams as a top-six, or even top-nine forward? It’s hard to say.
It’s difficult to want to cut ties to Williams, who has been with the team since the beginning of their meteoric rise. Williams was a part of both Cup winning teams, significantly contributing to the acquisition of the second Cup.
However, with a need to resign players like Anze Kopitar looming in the next two seasons, it might be time to find a younger and cheaper forward who can plug-in to a roster spot.
No one can ever replace a Justin Williams, but at this point it appears to be time to start looking for the next best option.
What’s your opinion? Do you think it’s time to say goodbye to Mr. Game 7?
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Jan 1, 2015; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams (14) skates in warm up against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. The Los Angeles Kings won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports