Birthplace: Cobourg, ON
Birthdate: October 4, 1981 (33 years old)
Position: Right Wing
Height/Weight: 6’1″, 189 lbs
2014-15 Stats: 81 GP, 18 G, 23 A, 41 PTS
In a press conference regarding his future with the team and moves he wants to make this off-season, Bryan Murray said he’d love to “find a top six guy.” Ottawa Senators fans were relieved he wanted to address defense. Until they realized what he actually meant. “I think it’s pretty clear this team needs help offensively,” Murray added. “This team had five 20 goal scorers. You think that’s enough?”
As you would expect, many people in attendance began to voice their opinions, many of which were along the lines of: “Yes, having that many people scoring is great. Defense is what the team desperately needs.” Murray began to chuckle. “It’s nowhere near enough. There’s no need to address defense, it’s fine as is. If we want to make a run for the cup, we’ll need at least seven or eight guys who can score 20 goals. Peace out, Mark Borowiecki for mayor.”
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Alright, maybe that isn’t exactly what he said. But the fact is Murray seems to be set on finding a top six forward. I think most people would be comfortable going forward with a group that consists of Kyle Turris, Bobby Ryan, Clarke MacArthur, Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad, and Mark Stone. Five of these guys scored 20 goals last season, and Bobby Ryan was only 2 away with 18 (it wasn’t a great season by his standards, but it’s helping me prove a point so just go with it).
If Murray is really trying to add another guy who can score, I’m sure it’ll come at a price of one of those guys packaged with something else. It makes no sense adding to that group, so upgrading one seems like it would be his only option. He could, however, trade for an upgrade on defense if he could land a top six forward through free agency. A guy like Justin Williams could be a target.
Chances are you’ve heard of Justin Williams, even if it was only due to his fantastic performance in the 2014 playoffs. He was a late first round draft pick for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2000. Williams is a guy that can put the puck in the net. Not at an elite level, but he’s consistently been around the 20 goal mark for the past five years. While his goals have been fairly consistent, his point totals have been slowly dropping. It’s fair to say that his best years are behind him, but it’s also fair to say his worst are as well.
He was extremely injury prone to begin his career, just playing in 258 of a possible 410 games. His first complete season came in 2005-06 with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he put up 31 goals and 76 points. He upped his goal total the following year with 33 in another full season. Injuries continued to be a problem for him in the following years, playing just 130 games over the course of four seasons.Mar 28, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Los Angeles Kings forward Justin Williams (14) skates with the puck in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Minnesota Wild beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
While this can be seen as a huge red flag, injuries haven’t been an issue as of late. He has only missed a single game in the past four seasons, essentially putting an end to any doubts of his ability to stay healthy.
As I mentioned before, Williams can put up decent offensive numbers. He’s got good speed, though he may be lacking a little in size. Murray has said he wants a power forward, and Williams certainly doesn’t fit that description. Though I would be surprised to see him pass up on a chance at Williams come July 1st.
Then again, it all depends on whether or not the Los Angeles Kings plan on re-signing him. Williams has just finished up his 4 year contract with an average cap hit of $3.65 million. If he were to hit the open market, it’s safe to assume he would be asking for a raise, and he would almost certainly get it. The issue here is I don’t see a scenario where the Kings let him go, or where he walks. The Kings had an off year, not making the playoffs as the defending Stanley Cup champions, but there’s no reason to believe they won’t make it next year. If they’re offering him a contract with an average of $4 million per season, I see no reason why he wouldn’t want to stay.
Now for the important question: does he fit in Ottawa? Honestly, not really. Taking a look at the Senators’ top six, he really isn’t an improvement on anyone. Plus, half of the Sens’ top six are 25 or younger, meaning they still have a lot of room to improve. Although that can also be seen as an issue. The Senators are a very young team. While this is exciting for fans, it means guys like Chris Neil and Chris Phillips are the most experienced and probably two of the biggest influences on the younger guys. Yikes.
Bringing in a guy like Williams, who has three Cups under his belt (2006 with Carolina, 2012 and 2014 with Los Angeles) as well as a Conn Smythe (2014) would be nothing but beneficial to the younger players. Although, is it really worth getting him to replace a better, younger winger? Add that to the fact that Murray wants to get a guy with size, and he doesn’t seem like he would be their first choice if he somehow decides to test free agency.
While the idea of signing a good forward, then trading for defense is an attractive one, I just don’t see Williams being part of it. Besides, the only thing on Murray’s mind come July 1st should be defense (even though it obviously won’t be). Could you imagine Mike Green with Erik Karlsson? The thought alone makes me drool a little bit.