Opinion

Off-Season Targets: Justin Williams

What happens over the course of the next week is anyone’s guess, but it feels safe to assume that Jordan Eberle will be heading out of town between now and the conclusion of the NHL entry draft on Saturday afternoon.

If the Oilers do move on from Eberle, they’ll need a replacement for the veteran goal scorer. Heck, even if they don’t, Edmonton may still be interested in adding a right winger should Leon Draisaitl return to center.

In the quest for a Stanley Cup, it is very important to have veterans on the roster that can contribute both on and off the ice. The Oilers have a few of these players, but stand to benefit from adding a couple more. Three-time Stanley Cup champion Justin Williams may just be another one of those guys.

Why Is He Out There?:

Williams appears to simply be the victim of cap issues in Washington. While he was a very productive part for the club, the Capitals have $22 million in cap space with only ten skaters and one goalie under contract for next season.

They’ll owe players like Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt raises while also having to replace pieces like Williams, TJ Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner. It’s going to be tough to fill this roster out for training camp.

I’d bet that the Capitals would love to have Williams back, but he’s likely very low on the priority list as of this time.

What Does He Do Well?:

This is player that is much more than an extremely clutch (minus this past playoff) game seven performer. Williams is a well-rounded player that can wear a lot of hats while providing solid veteran leadership and advice on winning on the biggest stages of the game.

The former Conn Smythe winner owns an accurate and dangerous shot that has allowed him to be a consistent 20 goal scorer in the NHL. He’s got solid playmaking ability too, evident by his 24 assists this past season. Overall, Williams posted 24-24-48 in 80 regular season contests.

Defensively, Williams is a responsible player who rarely makes mistakes in his own end and is usually solid possession wise. He’s a strong skater and can play a tough, gritty game, which makes him a very good fit with this Edmonton team.

Williams averaged 15:28 TOI per game last season and fired 167 shots on net over the course of the campaign. He produced 3-6-9 in 13 playoff games this past spring.

Where Will He Play/Where Should He Play?:

Without doubt, Williams is a top-nine forward and I think the argument can be made that he is still very much a top-six winger at the NHL level. If the Oilers were to keep Jordan Eberle and move Leon Draisaitl back to center, Williams would be a perfect second line option.

The same could be said if Leon stays at right wing and the club moves Eberle out at some point in the near future. On the plus side, this would allow Jesse Puljujarvi to develop on a soft-minutes scoring line further down the depth chart.

What Will He Cost?:

Williams’ most recent contract was a two-year pact with the Capitals that paid him $3.25 million per season. It is fair to say that Williams’ next deal will come in at around the same dollar value and the same term. At 35, it’s hard to see a team giving him more than two seasons on a contract.

At his age and considering his personality and drive, I think it is also fair to assume that Williams may be inclined to take less money to play for a contender that can get him that fourth Stanley Cup ring. At this point, I believe that Edmonton fits the bill.

Could an identical two-year deal at $3.25 million get Williams to Edmonton? I think so.

Closing Thoughts:

If the Oilers decided to trade Jordan Eberle in the coming weeks, then they will need to add a right winger that can fill that hole and contribute right away. Ideally, Jesse Puljujarvi fills that spot, but I don’t think it is fair or wise to assume that he can do that right now.

Justin Williams is the perfect solution in many ways because he will be cheaper than Eberle, produced at a similar clip this past season, is a right-shot and has the Stanley Cup pedigree that is so important to young teams trying to get over the hump and win their first Cup.

There is no guarantee that Williams will want to come to Edmonton, but in the event that he is open to it Peter Chiarelli should take a long look at the player. He appears to be a perfect fit for this club in so many ways.

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