According to Capfriendly.com, the Islanders have $9.3 million in available cap space with RFA’s Calvin de Haan and Adam Pelech needing contract extensions (the former more expensive than the latter). This year’s unrestricted free agent class isn’t packed with a lot of difference makers, and no one specifically that fits the Islanders needs.
So, naturally, they’ve been linked to unrestricted free agent forward Justin Williams.
Wait. What? Where the hell did he come from?
First, Arthur Staple of Newsday said on Twitter that the Islanders could make an attempt at signing Williams when the floodgates open Saturday, July 1.
Best guess for tomorrow: #Isles take a swing with J. Williams, maybe a couple other short-term veteran fwds, and add a depth D-man.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) June 30, 2017
TSN insider Darren Dreger followed up by saying the Islanders, Lightning and Flyers are among the contenders for his services. After that, Blues beatwriter Andy Strickland chimed in to say that Williams, who’s spent the last two seasons in Washington, wants to remain in the East, possibly as a way to discourage our friends at Defending Big D from getting any big ideas.
Finally, Staple wondered if the team’s interest wasn’t a ploy by Garth Snow to get his rivals to back off.
Williams had 24 goals and 24 assists last season for the Capitals, and had 52 points (22g, 30a) the season before. He’s most effective at even strength, with just nine and ten power play points the last two years, but he still brings the goods in the possession game that makes him a darling of the analytics crowd.
For the lovers of narratives and witchcraft, Williams also carries with him the reputation of being “Mr. Game 7,” the clutchiest of captains clutch who can win you a playoff round just with his mere presence in a deciding game (ask the Caps how that worked out the last couple of years). He won two Stanley Cups and a Conn Smythe Trophy in Los Angeles to go along with the Cup he won in 2006 with Carolina and teammates Doug Weight and Andrew Ladd.
So should we get hyped for a Williams announcement on Saturday? Meh. I doubt it. All of this is pretty speculative. It also seems doubtful that the 35-year-old Williams would come to a team that’s still mostly on the bubble, let alone at the tight terms the Islanders are probably capable of offering. The Islanders signing Justin Williams would be like hooking surround sound system into a Commodore 64. I’m sure it would be fine but it seems kind of unnecessary.
But hey, it’s NHL silly season. You never know what can happen.
EVENING UPDATE: More hints
Staple has more in a story filed for Newsday about Anthony Beauvillier, who would stand to face more competition in training camp if the Islanders added Williams. If the Islanders, Flyers and Lightning are indeed the final three candidates for Williams’ services, it could be tight under the cap for the Isles and Lightning, while Flyers GM Ron Hextall has hinted he has nothing “big” planned Saturday.
Take all of that for what it’s worth. The outcome will be clear soon.