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Another Look At The Justin Williams Deal

Former Hurricane wins the Conn Smythe

Justin Williams is awarded the Conn Smythe
Justin Williams is awarded the Conn Smythe
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Father's Day to everyone out there!

The Los Angeles Kings have now won the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years and looked very good doing it.  They have an extremely solid team and one that many teams will try to use as a model.  A mixture of size, skill, grit, offense, and defense, what's there not to like?

Justin Williams won the Conn Smythe Trophy, which of course is given to the most valuable player in the playoffs.  This comes as no surprise to Caniacs who were around back when Williams wore the sightless eye.  While often injured, he was still always one of the hardest working players on the team.

It's only natural to look at the former player and wonder what went wrong?  Why isn't he still in Carolina?  Let's go back five years ago and look at the trade that sent him to Los Angeles.

On March 4th, 2009, Williams was dealt in a complicated, three-way deal which in essence sent him to the Kings, Patrick O'Sullivan to Edmonton, and Erik Cole to Carolina.

Williams was hurt at the time.  After recovering from a torn Achilles tendon in training camp, he then broke his hand and was projected to miss even more time, perhaps the rest of the season.

The Hurricanes were desperate to make a move and what better timing then at the very last minute on trade deadline day? The league didn't approve the deal until well after 4 p.m. as the press waited on the 4rth floor of the then, RBC Center, waiting for the official announcement.

When released, the exact specifics of the trade were:  the Canes sent Williams to the Kings for O'Sullivan and a 2nd round pick, (originally Calgary's), then sent  their own 2nd round pick and O'Sullivan to Edmonton for Cole and the Oiler's 5th round pick.  Still with me?

If you remember, Cole was traded to the Oilers for Joni Pitkanen during the summer of 2008 and while the Finnish defenseman was doing well in Raleigh, Cole had yet to find his groove in the North Country.

The Hurricanes were struggling a bit at the time.  Rutherford had fired Peter Laviolette earlier in the season and brought back Paul Maurice in a shocking move.   While the Canes were playing a little better, they still needed a boost to get them into the playoff picture.  Also, Eric Staal was in a bit of a funk and needed a player to move up to his line and help him produce.  Cole was a known commodity and provided that juice.

The Hurricanes went on a tear and not only got into the playoffs, but upset both the Bruins and the Devils to make it to the Conference Finals, before eventually being swept by Dan Bylsma and the Penguins.

So the trade worked, for that season anyway.

There was also the issue of the salary cap, Williams' salary moving forward, the team's ability to pay a combination of Tuomo Ruutu's salary, Williams', and Cole's and other possible salary issues.

But to make a long story short, Jim Rutherford made a decision to fix a short-term problem, and it worked.  Was it the best thing for the long-term?  It sure does not look that way now.  Carolina has not made the playoffs since, while Williams looks like an all-star.  Although, it is easier to look like an all-star when you are surrounded by great players.

That is not to take anything away from Williams though, who has worked very hard for his success and deserves every bit of it.  If anyone could work through those injuries, he could and he proved it.

At the time, it looked like a good deal for Carolina and 83% of those who responded, approved of the deal in our poll.

Canes Re-Acquire Erik Cole

As always though, there was some good discussion in the comment section and many of you did not approve.

What is most interesting to me though, is that we have many of the same issues today, as we had five years ago.  Trying to find a good linemate for Eric Staal... trying to make the team bigger...trying to be budget conscious...

Here is one comment from yours truly which was written in March of 2009, which easily could have been written last week.


Nice post, you make several good points. People who do not agree with keeping a "thrifty" budget will not like this deal. But others might argue that a small market team can not feasibly spend to the cap. The gate and television revenue is just not the same as in bigger cities. Certainly Justin Williams suffered the consequences for the inability to trade Frank Kaberle and/or other less desirable players who have inflated contracts compared to recent performance.

Concerning your comments about Staal, they certainly had some success together. But I don’t think management is saying that Cole is the only player that will benefit Staal. Staal might be missing Cory Stillman, more so than Cole, but Cole was the person available. Stillman was a good assist man and right now I believe that is what Staal is lacking, someone to set him up. There are other good set up players in the league and perhaps they can focus on bringing one in here next season. Cole might actually benefit more from playing with Staal, then vice-versa. But then Staal’s assist numbers should go up.

I agree that the team is small. But it will probably require a long term fix, not short term. The team needs to start drafting and developing bigger players, and that takes time. (like Washington).

So, has the team drafted wisely and gotten bigger the past five years?  Have they gotten a Cory Stillman type of player who is good along the boards and who can set other players up?

These are a few of the things that strike me after looking back at this in detail again.

1.  The team is quite often seeking short-term fixes rather than long-term ones.  (Perhaps they have no choice in this.)

2.  The team is still trying to get bigger and less soft to play against. (There has been no change in five years in this aspect.)

3.  The team is still looking for the perfect linemate to get the most out of Eric Staal.  (Now they are considering moving him to winger.)

4.  For whatever reason, Erik Cole cannot seem to find much success in any place outside of Carolina.  He struggled in Edmonton, in Montreal, and now in Dallas.  (Perhaps it is time for him to come back home, at a much reduced salary.)


The SB Nation Mock Draft is underway and we must make the pick for Carolina soon.  This will be posted about 10 a.m. Monday morning.  Here is where we stand for now:

1. Florida: Aaron Ekblad
2. Buffalo: Sam Bennett
3. Edmonton: Leon Draisaitl
4. Calgary: Sam Reinhart
5. NY Islanders: Michael Dal Colle
6. Vancouver: Jake Virtanen


Brian will be working on the results of the playoff competition and will post those results soon.