Justin Williams Signs with Washington

by Michael Clifford on July 2, 2015

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Justin Williams signs with Washington as the Capitals add valuable playoff experience. 

There are players who are remembered for a single moment, and it helps springboard them to a full-time status, or a fresh contract (ahem, Dave Bolland). Then there are players who have consistently performed in the playoffs, and build their reputation on that. Justin Williams is not Dave Bolland. Justin Williams has been one of the most clutch playoff performers in NHL history.

It’s for this reason, in all likelihood, that the Washington Capitals signed Williams to a two-year deal worth $3.25-million per season. The man known as Mr. Game 7 has registered 14 career playoff points in such games, half of which are goals.

While having done so much in playoff games, specifically in a Game 7, is where he’s earned his reputation, he’s actually just a darned good hockey player. Not only is Williams a consistent 40-50 point player – which has its own value – but he’s a guy who drives possession for his teammates. There are two kinds of players in this league: guys who drive, and guys who are along for the ride. Williams drives the play, and that should help him fit in with what the Washington Capitals are doing. When the Caps have been at their best over the last decade, it’s when they excelled at driving the play. For instance, the Caps put up three straight seasons of over 105 points from 2008-2011, and were a top-5 possession team in that span. Williams will help the Capitals be that team again next year.

Fantasy Impact

This isn’t the Justin Williams from post-2005 lockout who could come close to a point per game. I’m not even sure it’s the same Williams from just a few years ago who could be a 20-25 goal, 55-60 point player. He has now posted back-to-back seasons between 40-45 points, and has failed to score 20 goals in either campaign.

Part of that is that Los Angeles hasn’t really been a high scoring team, being close to a bottom-third team in the NHL in goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five the last two years. What’s interesting about that is that Washington has actually been worse in that regard, being ranked 22nd in the league at five-on-five scoring.

That’s part of the problem here for Williams and his fantasy value. It’s not like he ended up in Tampa Bay or Dallas. Williams ended up on a team that relies on its power play for a good amount of its goal scoring. Williams will be on the power play for this team, but I’m not sure it’s on the top unit with Nicklas Backstrom and company. I think Williams can improve on the 13 power play points next year, but not by a lot. If he cracks the 20 power play point mark, it should be considered a great year.

That’s kind of the crux here for Williams in fantasy. If he doesn’t get regular top unit minutes on the power play, he may not crack 50 points this year. It’s possible he will, but I’m not ready to bank on that yet.

Another concern was the plummet in shots per game for Williams; from 2009-2014, Williams averaged between 2.85 and 3.00 shots per game. That number dropped this year to 2.15. Part of that was being given less ice per game, part of it is just shooting less, as he took far fewer shots per 60 minutes at five-on-five last year (7.71) than the previous five seasons (10.47). If he can’t bring his volume of shots up, he could be hard-pressed to return to form.

To have much fantasy value next year, Williams needs to do two things: first, get top unit power play minutes, and start shooting more like he has done for most of his career. Without those two things, this looks to be a better real-world signing than fantasy addition.