The Washington Capitals have not made it a secret that they are looking to add a top six forward this off-season. The trade market isn’t looking too hot, especially with Chicago’s initial demands for Patrick Sharp. The only other option for the Washington Capitals is free agency. The free agent market doesn’t have many good options, but it does have a potential fit for the Washington Capitals in Justin Williams.
Like Patrick Sharp, Justin Williams is aging. He is 33 years old and he will turn 34 in the month of December. However, like Sharp, Justin Williams is also a proven veteran who the Washington Capitals could use. The Washington Capitals play a ton of game sevens. When has Williams came up the hugest? In game sevens. Williams is great in the playoffs. He is a three time Stanley Cup Champion who has played in seven game sevens in his career. His team is 7-0 in those games. He has the most game seven points of any NHL player in history with 14. The fit is obvious. Get Justin Williams to the playoffs and let him work his magic.
Why The Washington Capitals Shouldn’t Sign Justin Williams
Like Sharp, Williams is also coming off a down year. He had just 41 points (18 goals and 23 assists) in 2014-2015 and saw his playing time decrease to just 15:49 per game, the third lowest of his career and his lowest since his 2001-2002 season. However, with Sharp, I’m not overly concerned about his down year because his shot generation rates were still darn impressive and he had various things working against him that he could not control. That is not the case with Williams. His shot generation rates are declining, and for me, that’s a huge red flag.
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More alarming is that he’s barely above average among NHL forwards with at least 1000 minutes at even strength (Williams had 1,089).
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The Washington Capitals should probably stay clear of Williams unless his price drops. He will likely command at least $4,000,000 a year because of his playoff resume. If that number drops to $3,000,000, I’d be more than happy to add Williams to the third line and have him as sort of a “playoff specialist”. Kind of like the role Joel Ward has filled. However, seeing as how Williams is probably the best forward in free agency (or at least that’s what a lot of people think), that is not most likely not going to happen.
Signing Williams would likely be counter productive, as the Washington Capitals need to get their young forwards Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson more playing time. Though Burakovsky is left-handed and could feasibly switch to left wing, Williams is a right wing and so is Wilson. Unless the Washington Capitals manage to trade Troy Brouwer, Williams would cause a huge logjam at right wing. The Caps are probably looking to avoid that. Another issue: Williams might be very productive in the playoffs, but sadly you can’t sign guys solely for playoffs. Williams’s production is dropping, and that’s something that the Washington Capitals should be very concerned about.
If the Washington Capitals are going to sign an older forward, it better be one who can still be productive. I have confidence that could be the case with Sharp. I’m not at all confident in Justin Williams. The Washington Capitals would probably be better off with Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson as their top six forwards than Justin Williams at this point.