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NHL free agency: Examining the Flyers’ interest in Justin Williams

Could the still-productive 35-year-old find a home on the Flyers’ second line?

Edmonton Oilers v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

We’ve already written about Scott Hartnell today, and now we’re taking a step 10 years further back in time and writing about Justin Williams. The former Flyers and current Capitals forward is set to be a free agent on Saturday afternoon, and there are lots of teams interested in his services. One of those teams appears to be Philadelphia.

I’ll lead with this: it’s not likely that the Flyers get Justin Williams, and they should not get into a bidding war for him. Given that he’s a UFA and that there are lots of teams with interest, he’s probably going to get overpaid by somebody. I am confident that, given his track record, Ron Hextall won’t be that guy.

But with that said, despite being 35 years old, Williams is still a very useful player who I would not hate to see back in Philadelphia. The Hockey News has him as their 6th-best free agent this offseason, and with 24 goals and 24 assist last season, he compares very favorably to your typical second-line winger, as Own The Puck shows below. In the same ice time as your average second-liner last year, Williams had more favorable goal numbers and was more favorable in both shot generation and shot suppression. He was only below average in primary assists.

Now, some of that could of course be the team he played on. The Capitals were absolutely stacked last season — and yet no Cup, such a shame -- but the reality is that even at age 35, Williams is a valuable player. Here’s a bit from our friends down in Washington at Japers’ Rink:

Williams didn’t just score goals; he made people around him better. Every forward on the Caps’ roster who skated at least 50 minutes with him this year saw their even-strength CF% jump when alongside Williams compared to when they were apart. His own CF% was up from last year, as well (although his RelCF was down slightly - a product of his team being better at even strength, most likely, as opposed to anything he did in particular).

If the Flyers feel they need a veteran presence who can score and fill a role in the middle-six, you could do a lot worst than Justin Williams.

That said, the Flyers are absolutely flooded with forwards heading into next year. Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Sean Couturier, Michael Raffl, Jori Lehtera, Nolan Patrick, Oscar Lindblom, Matt Read, Scott Laughton, Valterri Filppula, Travis Konecny, Roman Lyubimov, Dale Weise and Mike Vecchione all have legitimate, maybe better than 50 percent chances of making the Flyers out of camp. Jordan Weal seems to still be in the mix to return as well, depending on what happens in free agency.

If you sign Williams, where does he fit? I’m of the opinion that you can never have too many players competing for jobs, but adding a second-line winger to this mix gets a bit messy doesn’t it?