Justin Williams announced Monday he will be taking some time away from the NHL.
The forward, who turns 38 on Oct. 4 and became an unrestricted free agent July 1, was captain of the Carolina Hurricanes last season, his 18th in the NHL. He had 53 points, including ranking second on Carolina with 23 goals, in 82 regular-season games and had seven points (four goals, three assists) in 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Hurricanes reach the Eastern Conference Final in their first postseason appearance since 2009.
"This is the first time in my life that I've felt unsure of my aspirations with regards to hockey," Williams told the Hurricanes website. "For as long as I can remember, my whole offseason until this point has been hockey and doing what was necessary to prepare for the upcoming season. Because of my current indecision and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I'm accustomed to having, I've decided to step away from the game.
"It's important to me that the focus of attention is on the current, very talented group the Carolina Hurricanes have assembled as they prepare to build on the momentum and growth we established last season."
Video: Justin Williams to step away from NHL to start season
Selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round (No. 28) of the 2000 NHL Draft, Williams has 786 points (312 goals, 474 assists) in 1,244 games with the Flyers, Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals. He has 101 points (40 goals, 61 assists) in 155 NHL playoff games, winning the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 and the Kings in 2012 and 2014.
"We appreciate Justin's honesty and openness throughout this process and respect his decision," Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said. "He's been an important part of our team, but we did prepare our roster with the understanding that he might step away. We are confident in the group we've assembled."
Speaking to NHL.com in June, Williams did not rule out playing for someone other than the Hurricanes if he returned this season, but also said he had built a house and did not want to move his family again.
"Listen, anything can happen," he said. "I've known that in this world, certainly the hockey world, you don't really make plans. You just live it."