Justin Williams found out what most unrestricted free agents did on Wednesday: that this year’s July 1 free-agent frenzy was filled with belt-tightening, coupon-like measures.
Not many long-term deals and not as much money as players are used to seeing, all because the minimal increase in the salary cap scared the bejeezus out of teams and left many with only nickels to spend under the cap.
"I’m just stunned at what transpired out there," said one veteran agent who didn’t get his way for his clients.
Agent Thane Campbell had projected better things for his client, Williams, but at the same time was satisfied he found a nice fit for the 2014 playoff MVP.
"Being on a contender and a great opportunity trumped more money," Campbell told ESPN.com late Wednesday night after Williams agreed to a two-year, $6.5 million deal with the Washington Capitals.
I love this all-around fit. The Caps were looking for a right-handed, top-six winger. They got that, and a guy who is a three-time Cup winner and 2014 Conn Smythe winner, to boot.
The other three-time Cup winner Washington had kicked tires on was Patrick Sharp. Instead, the Caps get Williams without having to give up assets in a trade, and on top of that Williams comes in at a salary that’s almost half the price of Sharp’s $5.9-million cap hit.
Now, the two are different players. Sharp is a much better skater and is more electrifying in many ways, but Williams has shown just how clutch he is in big games as well, and his two-way game is superb. Absolutely love what Caps GM Brian MacLellan did here.
As for Williams, it’s an emotional departure from Los Angeles, where he won two Cups and spent the past six-and-a-half years. Surprisingly, at least to me, the Kings actually made a late push Wednesday to bring Williams back. After striking out on defenseman Andrej Sekera, I guess they had some cap room after the Mike Richards move to do so. But it was too little, too late.
The Montreal Canadiens also tried on Williams, getting in late when GM Marc Bergevin sensed the price going down, but they can afford to be patient in a buyer's market and will find a bit of offense at their price. I’m sure there were a few other teams after Williams, too.
But after a phone call with head coach Barry Trotz to woo him, Williams was sold on the Caps. And I think he made the right choice.