Free Agent Profile: Justin Williams

 

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(Harry How/Getty Images)

With free agency closing in, our final free agency profile takes a look at Los Angeles Kings forward, Justin Williams. The free-agent-to-be scored 18 goals and added 23 assists for 41 points with the Kings this season. Williams has become notorious for his performances in game 7s of the playoffs, where his team holds a 7-0 record. He also holds the record by a wide margin for most game 7 points with 14. It’s no doubt that he would be valuable to any team looking to add some scoring and a veteran leader in the locker room.

While Williams’ point totals may not be overly impressive the last two seasons, he is still one of the most underrated forwards in the NHL. In 2014-15, he was one of the top 20 possession players in the entire league with a 57.1% Corsi. If we look as far back as data begins (2007-08) Williams has never been worse than a 53.5% possession player. The Kings have been one of the top puck possession teams in the NHL for the better part of the last 3-4 years, and Williams has been a key element in sustaining puck possession for LA. There aren’t too many players that can boast possession numbers like that on a consistent basis, but he is one of them.

Williams’ shot creation and shot suppression numbers were also off the charts. His shot attempts for per 60 (SAF/60) was 61.22 while his shot attempts against per 60 (SAA/60) was 45.97. It goes without further explanation that those are numbers a first line winger typically puts up. So while Williams’ point totals may not be that of a 1st liner, he’s still more than capable of playing with a team’s top line.

Even though Williams’ numbers indicate that he’s still a very capable top 6 forward, Daryl Sutter used him in different roles last season. Of the 1089 minutes he played at 5v5, 24% came with Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown, while 25% of it came with Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik. Whether it was on the top line, or whether it was on LA’s 3rd line, Sutter felt comfortable using Williams anywhere in his top 9. That’s going to be a key area of interest for anyone that’s looking to sign Williams this offseason.

The Devils were the third worst scoring team at 5v5, with only Buffalo and Arizona trailing them. Justin Williams would undoubtedly help strengthen the team’s scoring abilities at even strength. Of the 37 goals Williams scored the last 2 seasons, 25 of them came at even strength. While his point totals have dipped gradually over the last few seasons, he has scored 22, 22, 19, and 18 goals in four of the last five seasons. The one outlier is 2012-13, where Williams only played 48 games and scored 11 goals. Had he played 82 games, he would’ve been right on pace for another season with 18-19 goals. He’s been consistent in scoring and puck possession, two areas the Devils have lacked the last few seasons.

Williams is an interesting target for the Devils. He doesn’t exactly fit the mold of wanting to go younger, but he’s still quite the capable top-6 forward. He may not be at the top of Ray Shero’s free agent list, but he should at least get a good look from management. If the Devils lose out to a younger player such as Michael Frolik, he’d be a very nice option to fall back to. Signing him will just have to come at the right price and term. Even though I think the Devils signing Williams is unlikely, stranger things have happened before. We’ll just have to see come noon on July 1st.

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