Justin Williams signed a two-season, $6.5-million contract with the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, leaving the Kings behind after helping them to two Stanley Cup championships and earning one of the great nicknames in NHL history. Here’s some of what he had to say during a conference call Thursday:
“Obviously, we enjoyed it (playing with the Kings). Except for my first year when I got traded in the middle of it we made the playoffs every time except for last year. We enjoyed a pretty good stretch. Two Stanley Cups and a trip to the Western Conference finals.
“Things got derailed this year with appearances and things beyond individuals’ control. There are going to be changes in L.A. because of that. Everyone’s looking to get better. I spent … the best seasons I had were in Los Angeles year in and year out. The team and individual success was great there. I made a lot of friends.
“It’s a business. It’s about winning, but now it’s time for me to move on. I spoke to L.A. yesterday. There’s this thing now called the salary cap. I’m going to move on, but I’m going to remember my time there. … I don’t think that’s fair (to talk about other offers). There were offers out there I pondered. … This is the best fit for me. Listen, I’m going to play as long as I can. My head is upset we didn’t make the playoffs, but my body is saying, ‘Thank you.’”
Unrestricted free agent Justin Williams signed a two-season, $6.5-million contract Wednesday and jumped to the Washington Capitals from the Kings. The departure of the man known as Mr. Game 7 because of his heroics during the Kings’ march to the Stanley Cup in 2014 was not unexpected. The Kings did create some salary-cap flexibility by terminating the contract of Mike Richards on Monday, but in the end Richards decided to move elsewhere late on the first day of free agency.
Williams, 33, scored 41 points in 81 games last season with the Kings.
The Capitals are 3-6 in Game 7s since 2008.
The Kings were 3-0 in Game 7s in 2014, all on the road.
The Kings needed a backup goaltender after trading Martin Jones to the Boston Bruins in the deal that brought Milan Lucic to Los Angeles. So, the Kings signed Jhonas Enroth to a one-season, $1.25-million contract Wednesday. Enroth played 50 games last season, including 37 with the Buffalo Sabres. He also played for the Dallas Stars. Overall, he was 18-26-2 in 2014-15. He’s not likely to play anywhere near that much as Jonathan Quick’s backup with the Kings next season.
Andrej Sekera, a defenseman the Kings acquired at the trade deadline from the Carolina Hurricanes for a first-round draft pick next year and a prospect, signed a six-season, $33-million contract with the Edmonton Oilers on the first day of free agency. Sekera’s tenure with the Kings lasted all of 16 games, and he scored one goal and four points. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in a March 30 game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Michael Futa, the Kings’ vice president of hockey operations and their director of player personnel, offered some background on Mike Richards during an interview before the team terminated the forward’s contract Monday. Here’s some of what Futa said of Richards on a Toronto radio station earlier in the day:
“That’s a tough one. Obviously, what makes (Kings general manager) Dean Lombardi special is relationships with the players and his loyalty. Obviously, coming off the Cup year (in 2014) and having a very small window there, as Dean said it was probably the most difficult incorrect decision he’s made and it’s cost us.”
Futa referred to deciding against buying out Richards last summer.
Futa then continued, “(Lombardi) flew into Kenora (Richards’ offseason home in Ontario) and looked Mike in the eye and felt he was comfortable that we were going to have him buy in a little bit better and things just didn’t work out (last season). Everything you said about Mike Richards in his career, sure, he’s been well-decorated for his incredible past. You know what? He’s the one who’s got to look into the mirror with regard to his decision.
“We clearly … (he was a) huge part of our Stanley Cup championships and we wish him well.”
Here’s more from Kings general manager Dean Lombardi, who talked at some length Friday afternoon about giving forward Tyler Toffoli a two-season, $6.5-million contract extension and how it enabled him to also trade for physical forward Milan Lucic, and what’s next on his summer to-do list:
“I have to say our first priority, in terms of signing now, is (signing Anze) Kopitar (to an extension). The other thing I’d say, that shows this team cares about winning, is what Tyler Toffoli did. It shows how everything ties together. With the threat of offer sheets and everything out there, the way he handled the situation was exemplary.
“This is a top young player. He could wait for an offer sheet (from another team). He could demand millions in a long-term deal. We talked to him, and it’s certainly a fair deal but it’s still a good deal for him, but in no way did he hold anybody hostage. If Tyler Toffoli doesn’t step up and do this, we can’t do this (Lucic) deal.
“Then we would have exposed ourselves to an offer sheet. It’s just exemplary for a young player, to realize his time will come and take a good deal, but not try to shoot for the moon. So the team is allowed to go out and make itself better. Once this (trade) got rolling, it was not doable without Tyler signing. If we had done this without Tyler signing, we were exposed to an offer sheet. It’s a great example of guys caring about the right things. They’ll get their money when the time comes.”
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi agreed with the conventional wisdom in fandom, but he also explained the team’s trade Friday afternoon with the Boston Bruins for physical forward Milan Lucic this way, “This deal, we gave up quite a bit, but I was very clear I would not give up that unless it was not only the player, but a fit. Is it the loss of the other player (Justin Williams)? Yeah, but that’s not what drives it. This isn’t done unless it’s that type of player (Lucic).”
Lombardi all but acknowledged the departure of Williams as an unrestricted free agent next week.
UPDATE: Kings confirm via Twitter
It’s not official yet, but reports Friday morning from NHL Draft HQ in Sunrise, Fla., indicate the Kings and Tyler Toffoli have agreed on a two-year, $6.5-million contract extension. Toffoli’s return was among the top items on general manager Dean Lombardi’s offseason to-do list. The 23-year-old Toffoli has scored 37 goals and 83 points in 148 career games over two-plus seasons in the NHL.
Check back later for more updates.
The Kings’ options are limited. They’re nearly hitting their heads on the NHL’s $69-million salary cap for next season, but since they’ve just won their second Stanley Cup championship in three seasons, maybe the best move is keeping their roster relatively intact for 2014-15.
The Kings agreed to terms with the last of their own free agents Friday, when they announced a new two-season contract for forward Kyle Clifford. The 22-year-old Clifford had 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) and 51 penalty minutes in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.