Needing to make some sort of a splash in free agency, Ron Francis has signed Justin Williams to a two-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes. Williams’ deal carries a $4.5mil cap hit, with $5mil being paid in the first year and $4mil in the second, which goes a long way towards the team reaching the salary minimum of $55.4 million.
Williams put up 48 points (24g, 24a) in 80 games with the Capitals last season, and has posted 40+ points in six of his past seven seasons, including three with at least 50 points.
Williams also brings a veteran (and 2-time champion) presence to a young locker room, and was reportedly “pushed hard for” by Rod Brind’Amour during the courting phase of free agency.
Brind'Amour on Williams: "I've been pushing hard to get Justin. What he can do for us in this locker room is what we need."— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) June 30, 2017
The signing was announced during the prospect scrimmage at the Hurricanes’ Summerfest, much to the delight of the crowd in attendance.
Welcoming back Justin Williams amongst the crowd. pic.twitter.com/ZX800uAZ4p— Mike Forman (@MForman5) July 1, 2017
The video that was shown featured clips of Williams’ influence during the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run, and certainly injected a fair bit of nostalgia into the fanbase.
Here's how #Canes fans at Summerfest got the news that Justin Williams is back: pic.twitter.com/gyxLYDWfwM— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) July 1, 2017
Williams and his eight-year-old son Jaxon were on Sportsnet and NHL Network following the signing. Williams said that he wants to help to get the Canes to the next level, noting that Nashville proved that you just have to get into the postseason and then see what happens.
And as for Jaxon (pardon the misspelling in the tweet), who was less than a year old when his dad was traded in 2009:
Anchor: “Jackson, what do you think of the deal?”— Brian LeBlanc (@bdleblanc) July 1, 2017
Jackson: “It’s good!”
Anchor: “Do you remember Carolina at all?”
Below is the audio clip of Williams’ press conference call, followed by the release from the team.
CANES AGREE TO TERMS WITH JUSTIN WILLIAMS
Three-time Stanley Cup champion returns to Raleigh on two-year deal
RALEIGH, NC - Ron Francis, Executive Vice President and General Manager of the National Hockey League's Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has agreed to terms with right wing Justin Williams on a two-year contract. The deal will pay Williams $5 million during the 2017-18 season, and $4 million during the 2018-19 season.
"We said that we needed goal scoring and veteran leadership, and Justin will bring us both," said Francis. "He believes in what we are doing here and is returning to Raleigh to help the Hurricanes take the next step."
Williams, 35, scored 24 goals and added 24 assists (48 points) in 80 games for the Washington Capitals during the 2016-17 season. The Cobourg, Ont., native ranked tied for third among Capitals skaters in goals and sixth in points. Williams was fourth among Capitals in scoring during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs, totaling nine points (3g, 6a) in 13 games.
Originally selected by the Philadelphia Flyers, Williams (6'1", 188 lbs.) has earned 682 points (273g, 409a) in 1,080 career regular-season NHL games with the Flyers, Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Capitals. He has added 94 points (36g, 58a) in 140 career playoff games, winning the Stanley Cup three times - 2006 with Carolina, and 2012 and 2014 with Los Angeles. Williams won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, registering nine goals, 16 assists (25 points) and a league-leading plus-13 rating in 26 games for the Kings.
Williams played 265 regular-season games with the Hurricanes from 2004-2009, and ranks 10th in the team's North Carolina history in scoring with 201 points (81g, 120a). He scored seven goals and added 11 assists (18 points) in 25 games for the Hurricanes during the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Hurricanes captured the first championship in franchise history.