The natural ebbs and flows of the NHL trade season. If you are a pending free agent your name is in the mix. If you are on a middling team your name is in the mix.
Now factor in a three-time Stanley cup champion and last year's Conn Smythe trophy winner.
Ups the ante a little wouldn't you say?
If you had asked this question five or six games ago the possibility would have seemed real. Heck, there were pretty heavy rumors back in January that the Kings and the Penguins were all but set on a deal for Paul Martin. That trade however fell through with the season-ending injury to Olli Matta.
Now though, with the Kings swinging back in the right direction and right back into the playoff hunt it seems far less conclusive what could happen.
The facts as we know them are the following:
There have been negotiations between the Kings and Williams for an extension. Those talks have slowed considerably since December when the Kings asked for more time
. According to the article, Williams and his agent had set a "Soft deadline of New Year's" in regards to getting his extension done.
Williams is having a respectable year that should match last season's output. He is on pace for 22 goals and 41 points, which would be his lowest as a King but not by much. As far as the analytics go, Williams is still a relevant producer but he has been in steady decline since 2012. Thanks to the graphs on War-on-ice.com
, we can get a sense of that decline.
Scoring chances for per/60
Shots for per 60
corsi for per 60
It isn't massive, but it's steady. Steady enough to wonder if the 33-year old Williams, who will be 34 at the start of next season, is on a twilight trend downwards.
And finally, the Kings are sitting just three points back of the two final wild card teams in Calgary and Vancouver. They are also only four points back of San Jose with two games in hand. The playoffs are still an extremely real possibility, especially when you consider their current run of form.
It is hard to imagine Dean Lombardi would make ANY sort of move at this point given how the team is playing and how they are still in contention. You don't want to subtract right before the dance.
However, the current state of Williams' contract and the sort of limbo it puts the team is has to be frustrating.
Any contending team would take the former Conn Smythe winner in a heartbeat. They'd probably give up a decent return on it to boot. Even though Williams has been in a state of decline, there are few GMs that would pass up on the mystique of a two-time champion, a Conn Smythe winner, and a guy that could bring a sense of "Been there before" experience when it comes to the playoffs. A roster lacking a little playoff experience, ala the Islanders or the Jets, would probably jump at the opportunity. You could say that Williams' stock, be it warranted or not, has probably never been higher in terms of what he could bring to a team in the playoffs.
Then you get on the other side of this. The Kings might not be able to afford the loss of Williams if they are in it. On the flip side though, do they really want to risk losing Williams for nothing?
It's a precarious position for Dean Lombardi. On one hand you want to hold on to every good player you have in order to push for the playoffs and make another run. On the other hand you have the potential of either A) letting a player walk at the end of the season for nothing, or B) tying yourself to another contract on an aging and declining player. Then there is Williams and his team's side of it. Maybe he is looking for a long term deal to retire on, or still thinks his value is somewhere in the range of his current contract ($3.65MM per).
It is this sort of balancing act that probably weighs heavy on the mind of an NHL GM.
Unless the Kings are out of contention or struggling to keep pace by March 2nd you could probably venture that the Kings are sticking with 14 and maybe working out a short term deal.
However, there is probably some question out there of whether the Kings stick with Williams even if they are in it. You'd like to believe that when NHL GMs say that everyone is available for the right price they actually mean it. If the Kings can flip Williams at the deadline for a younger depth forward and some combo of prospects or draft picks, do you think they would do it? Would it be the right move? Would it be the wrong move to hold on to him even if they are in contention? Oh, and it is worth noting that Mike Richards has played VERY well for the Monarchs thus far so filling a vacant spot from within may not be all that difficult (One's a wing, one's a C, I know)...
These are the difficult questions that Dean Lombardi will have to face as we approach the deadline, and no one should envy him for having to answer them. I feel like the potential for him to get dealt is actually much more real than we believe. Time will tell if that gut feeling is true or not. The Salary cap era is cold-hearted that much is for sure.
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