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Williams unsure if he'll retire, return to Hurricanes, or play elsewhere

Carolina captain, who can become free agent, doesn't expect quick decision

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Justin Williams is unsure if he will continue his NHL career, the Carolina Hurricanes captain said Tuesday.

"Not yet, and I don't see a decision in the near future at all," Williams said of returning for a 19th NHL season.

The 37-year-old, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, played the past two seasons for Carolina, who this season reached the Eastern Conference Final, where it was swept by the Boston Bruins.

"I'm going to take my time and make sure I make the right [decision], right?" Williams said. "Because if I'm all in, I'm going to be all in. If I'm not quite all there, then I have to reassess the situation. I'm not going to be good if I'm 85 percent all in. I've got to be all in. That's the only that's fair to me, fair to the teammates, fair to everybody."

Williams did not rule out playing for someone other than the Hurricanes, but also said he had built a house and did not want to move his family again. He has played for the Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals and Hurricanes in the past five seasons and has missed three games in that time.

Video: CAR@BOS, Gm2: Williams scores on redirection in 3rd

"I told [the Hurricanes] I needed time and they said, 'Sure. Please let us know whenever you can, though. Please [don't wait] until September,'" Williams said.

Williams is a finalist for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, which will be handed out at the 2019 NHL Awards presented by Bridgestone on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN), after helping the Hurricanes reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009.

"I've slowly come to the realization that I can say it was a good year," Williams said. "I can't say it was a great year. But I can say it was a good year. It's hard to do (say it's great). If you don't win, everyone is like, 'Yeah, great year,' and it's like, 'How is this a great year?' So, the more time I have on it, we did some really good things. We raised the bar, which is what we wanted to do, but now we need to keep raising it and keep becoming relevant and respected. It was a good step for us."

A three-time Stanley Cup champion who turns 38 on Oct. 4, Williams had 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) in 82 regular-season games and seven points (three goals, four assists) in 15 playoff games this season. He has 786 points (312 goals, 474 assists) in 1,244 NHL games with the Philadelphia Flyers, Kings, Capitals and Hurricanes, and has been nicknamed Mr. Game 7 for his 8-1 record in those games, including this season against the Capitals in the Eastern Conference First Round.

"Listen, anything can happen," Williams said. "I've known that in this world, certainly the hockey world, you don't really make plans. You just live it."

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