The Carolina Hurricanes announced on Monday that captain and former Washington Capitals forward Justin Williams will step away from the NHL for the beginning of the 2019-20 season.
Justin Williams has announced that he is taking a break from the NHL
He will not join the team at the start of the 2019-20 season
— Carolina Hurricanes (@CanesNHL) September 2, 2019
“This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt unsure of my aspirations with regards to hockey,” said Williams in a statement released by the Hurricanes. “For as long as I can remember, my whole off-season 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.
Williams, who will turn 38 on October 4, mulled over the decision for three and a half months after the Hurricanes were swept by the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final. He became an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
Many believed that if Williams were to return to the NHL this season, he would only play for the Hurricanes, whom he won the Stanley Cup with in 2006.
“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.,” he said.
Williams recorded 46 goals, 100 points, and a +29 rating in 162 games over two seasons with the Capitals from 2015-17. He was brought in to help the team get over the hump in the Stanley Cup Playoffs but the Capitals were not able to get past the second round despite winning the Presidents’ Trophy both seasons Williams was in Washington. Though, he scored six goals and 16 points in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games with the Capitals.
The Capitals looked up to Williams for leadership. When the Capitals trailed 2-0 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 1 of the 2017 First Round series, it was Williams who tried to steady the ship. He also scored two goals in that game to tie it. The Capitals would win the game 3-2 in overtime and the series in six games.
Williams played his 1000th career NHL game as a Capital on April 10, 2016.
In 1244 career NHL regular-season games with the Capitals, Hurricanes, Philadelphia Flyers, and Los Angeles Kings, the 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP posted 312 goals, 786 points, and a +108 rating. In 155 career Stanley Cup Playoff games, Williams recorded 40 goals, 101 points, and a +36 rating.
Williams is known as “Mr. Game 7” as his teams are 8-1 in Game 7s and tied with Glen Anderson for the most career Game 7 goals (seven) in NHL history. His 15 points in Game 7s are also the most in the league record book. He earned the primary assist on forward Brock McGinn’s overtime winner in Game 7 against the Capitals in Round 1 of last season’s series. The Capitals lost the lone Game 7 Williams was with the team for, a 2-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017.
The Hurricanes signed free agent forward Ryan Dzingel on July 12 to replace Williams’ spot in the top-six forward group.
From The Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes forward Justin Williams today announced that he will step away from the National Hockey League ahead of the 2019-20 season.
“This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt unsure of my aspirations with regards to hockey,” said Williams. “For as long as I can remember, my whole off-season 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.”
Williams, 37, has recorded 786 points (312g, 474a) in 1,244 career NHL games with the Hurricanes, Flyers, Kings and Capitals. He is a three-time Stanley Cup Champion, winning titles with Carolina in 2006 and Los Angeles in 2012 and 2014 and winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014. Williams has tallied 305 points (120g, 185a) in 429 career games with the Hurricanes, ranking seventh in team history (since relocation) in goals and assists and eighth in points. He is one of nine players in NHL history to score 100 goals and win the Stanley Cup with two different franchises.
“We appreciate Justin’s honesty and openness throughout this process, and respect his decision,”said Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell. “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.”
The 6’1″, 184-pound forward was named the 16th captain in franchise history on Sept. 13, 2018. During the 2018-19 regular season, he posted 53 points (23g, 30a) to help guide the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009. In the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Williams recorded seven points (4g, 3a) in 15 games as the Hurricanes advanced to the Eastern Conference Final. During the 2018-19 regular season, Williams posted his highest single-season point total since 2011-12 and scored 20 goals for the seventh time in his career. He was the oldest player in the NHL to score 20 goals and record 50 points this season, and he was the oldest NHL forward to average at least 17:00 of ice time in 2018-19. Williams became the third player in franchise history to score 20 goals in a season after turning 37, joining Ron Francis (three times) and Ray Whitney. Since turning 30 on Oct. 14, 2011, Williams has played in 619 of 622 possible regular season games.
Williams was selected by his teammates as the winner of the 2018-19 Steve Chiasson Award, presented annually to the Hurricanes player that best exemplifies determination and dedication while proving to be an inspiration to his teammates through his performance and approach to the game. Williams was also chosen by the Carolina chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association (PHWA) as the winner of the 2018-19 Josef Vasicek Award for his cooperation with local media.
By Harrison Brown