Forward Justin Williams agreed to a two-year, $9 million contract (average annual value of $4.5 million) with the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
Williams is a three-time Stanley Cup champion. He had 18 points in 25 games to help the Hurricanes win the Cup in 2006, 15 points in 20 games when the Los Angeles Kings won their first championship in 2012, and 25 points in 26 games to lift the Kings to their second title in three seasons in 2014 and win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
"Well, there's a lot of emotions," Williams said of returning to Carolina. "It's hard to describe every one of them, but I think excitement is one of the big ones. Certainly, once we were getting close to a deal, there was a smile on my face and my wife's face, and we're excited for the opportunity and I'm certainly excited with the opportunity to work with a coaching staff that I'm pretty familiar with and a team that I feel is trending up in the right direction, for sure."
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Known as Mr. Game 7, Williams has 14 points and was 7-0 in Game 7 in his NHL career before the Capitals lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round in seven games last season. He expects to come into this season with the Hurricanes as a veteran leader.
"I think it goes without saying. I'm 35 years old. I'm not coming in as a young, fresh-faced kid," Williams said. "I've been around the block. I've seen a lot of things. I've been fortunate to be on a lot of great team and play with a lot of great players. I don't think there's any secret why I'm here. I'm here to trying to help as best as I can get the most out of my linemates and my teammates and just be me. I'm not going to try to be anyone else and I'm sure, hopefully, that will be enough."
Williams, who turns 36 on Oct. 4, had 48 points (24 goals, 24 assists) in 80 games with the Capitals last season. He had 100 points (46 goals, 54 assists) in the past two seasons with Washington.
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"We said that we needed goal-scoring and veteran leadership, and Justin will bring us both," general manager Ron Francis told the Hurricanes website. "He believes in what we are doing here and is returning to Raleigh to help the Hurricanes take the next step."
Francis also said Williams would be in consideration to take over as Hurricanes captain.
"I wouldn't say no. That's a possibility," he said. "I would certainly think he could wear an 'A' if nothing else. It's a process. You don't just step in a room and things change. We will have to see how preseason and training camp goes and we'll see where [coach Bill Peters] is at, how comfortable he is with making a decision at that point."
The Hurricanes missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of the past eight seasons but have shown improvement under Peters, finishing eight points out of the second wild card into the playoffs from the Eastern Conference last season.
"The thing is, I don't think you ever know," Williams said when asked if the Hurricanes are close to contending. "You know when you know and you have to go through trying years and failure before you get to your goal. Carolina, there's no question, they haven't made the playoffs since 2009, so that's a long time. So we're done losing and it's time to climb the ladder and get relevant. I really like this team. I like where it's going and I think you can ask anyone within the NHL who has played against the Hurricanes, they are a tough, tough team to play against, and I experienced that playing for Washington and I want to help in any way I can to get this team to where it should be."
Selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round (No. 28) of the 2000 NHL Draft, Williams has 682 points (273 goals, 409 assists) in 16 seasons (1,080 games) with the Capitals, Kings, Hurricanes and Flyers, and has 94 points (36 goals, 58 assists) in 140 NHL playoff games.