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What to do about Justin Williams

Aug 1, 2014, 9:05 PM EST

Justin Williams Getty Images

After seeing Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams seemingly always be in the right place at the right time during the Kings’ run to the Stanley Cup, his “clutch” abilities earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy.

It also has put the team in a bit of an awkward position headed into this season.

Once the Kings roll through the 2014-15 season, Williams, 32, could become an unrestricted free agent. There’s no doubt he’s been great for the Kings since arriving in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009. Since then, he’s been a fairly steady 15-20 goal per season player who just manages to become superhuman in the playoffs.

Williams will be coming off a contract with a $3.65 million cap hit. Players his age don’t tend to continue getting better as they get older and the Kings have a pair of young players pushing to graduate to his spot on a wing with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown.

Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson stepped up big in the playoffs themselves and Toffoli in particular has the offensive touch that has many thinking he’ll be a goal-scoring stud for them for years to come.

The question for Kings GM Dean Lombardi wrests on a couple of matters: The salary cap and when it’s the right time to part ways.

According to CapGeek.com, the Kings have over $59 million committed to next season. While the cap is surely to jump, they’ll have key RFAs to re-sign in Toffoli, Pearson, Kyle Clifford, Jordan Nolan, defenseman Jake Muzzin, and goalie Martin Jones.

It’s unlikely that all those players would put the Kings in cap peril, but retaining Williams could potentially stunt one of the forwards’ growth. That situation makes it tricky for Lombardi to decide if it’s time to hand the keys over to the kids at forward or re-commit to Williams and potentially give him a raise.

If Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter feel it’s Toffoli’s time to slide up the lineup, that’d make for an apt time to wish Williams well on his future endeavors and thank him for the Stanley Cups.

Then again, making rosters work with a lot of depth hasn’t been an issue for the Kings and rolling four lines that can beat you has been one of their trademarks. The Kings will find a way to make it work with or without Williams if it comes to that, but another monster postseason with a Stanley Cup could make him an icon impossible to let go in L.A.

  1. lowenni - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:15 PM

    I don’t see why there’s much of a question about this–Williams has been great for them and one of the most underrated players in the league for years, not to mention be a winner everywhere he goes. Firstly, a cap hit of 3.6 mil is not absurd for a guy of his caliber and he will be able to produce for another four years or so. If he asks for 100 million over ten seasons, then sure, you don’t resign him, but to me Williams seems like the consummate professional and team guy. I’m sure he’ll be looking for a reasonable contract and wouldn’t want to handicap the team that has helped him achieve so much success. On the topic of him taking a spot from Pearson or Toffoli, I don’t know why that is a topic, because in the playoffs it was actually Pearson and Toffoli that took HIS spot. He won the Conn Smythe from mostly the third line. If they want cap space for Toffoli and Pearson then they should’ve bought out Richards, he’s a great leader, but 5.5 mil is a lot for a fourth liner who isn’t gonna supplant Jeff Carter or Anze Kopitar as a top-6 center. This article has no basis until we find out what he’s going to be asking for for his next contract–if it’s similar to his one now, then maybe there’s a reason to trade him, if it’s more, then you do trade him…for all we know, he could take less knowing his class. No basis to this question, and I’m sure Lombardi is gonna try and keep him around.

  2. Gigagigagilgamesh - Aug 1, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    Hey Joe… Williams plays right wing… so does Dustin Brown~
    So it would be a spot on a line with Kopitar at center and Gaborik on left wing….
    Also Pearson plays left wing and Toffoli plays right..

    @ Lowenni … Toffoli and Pearson played on the 2nd line with Carter during the playoffs.. and Williams played on the first line with Kopi and Gaborik, or the 3rd line with Stoll and King…
    So you have no clue who took whose spot~

    Richards had a bad year… get over it…
    He should come back better than ever~

  3. lowenni - Aug 1, 2014 at 11:26 PM

    @gigagiga, my point was that Toffoli and Pearson took up the two remaining spots in the top six next to the four locks: Kopitar, Brown, Carter, and Gaborik. Williams was on the third line with Stoll most of the time, which you said, so I don’t know what you’re arguing about. I’m actually defending Williams and saying there isn’t much reason to let him go or for this article so I’m not sure what you’re picking at.

    As for Richards, I’m perfectly fine with them keeping him, and I do think he’ll rebound, my point was only that if they were worried about resigning Toffoli and Pearson then it would be better to let the guy who played fourth line with a much bigger contract go then to let the current Conn Smythe winner go. So, your rebuttal is unwarranted and stupid.

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