One of the big stories from Day 1 of the free agent frenzy?
The lack of frenzy.
No crazy deals, no staggering sums of money, no real head-shaking moves — all of which led to folks walking away from Wednesday with the same realization:
Free agency ain’t what it used to be.
Exhibit 1A could be Justin Williams. A four-time 20-goal scorer, three-time Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner, he took a pay cut ($3.25 million, down from $3.65M) and shorter term (two years, from four) to join the Capitals — a team that, according to Brian MacLellan, waited around until Williams’ price point made sense.
“We targeted a top-six right winger as we went into free agency, and made calls on all the guys we had interest in and monitored the market as we went along,” MacLellan said on Thursday. “At some point Justin became more affordable to us, and we started to lean his way.
“It worked out in the end.”
Now, granted, part of the Williams deal stems from the fact he turns 34 in October and is coming off a down year in Los Angeles. Those factors certainly played a role. But it’s not like Williams is ready to be put out to pasture — he still scored 18 goals and 41 points last year for a tired, underachieving Kings team riddled with off-ice distractions.
In trying to further explain how this situation unfolded, MacLellan said the free agent market was just “different” this year, and “leveled off” rather quickly.
More, from ESPN:
“I’m just stunned at what transpired out there,” said one veteran agent who didn’t get his way for his clients.
Agent Thane Campbell had projected better things for his client, Williams, but at the same time was satisfied he found a nice fit for the 2014 playoff MVP.
“Being on a contender and a great opportunity trumped more money,” Campbell told ESPN.com late Wednesday night.
There is something to what Campbell said, as the Caps represent a great opportunity.
Williams is already being trumpeted as the guy that can get the team over its Game 7 demons — a nice little narrative, but one the veteran winger downplayed — and, as per MacLellan, is looks like Williams will provide experience and veteran savvy on a line with talented youngsters Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
“I think [Williams] has all the intangible qualities we desire,” MacLellan explained. “He’s got a great resume with the three Cups, the Conn Smythe and his performance in the playoffs. I think all those things, plus all the things you hear about his character make him the perfect fit for our top six.”
When’s the last time you heard a GM talk about an affordable perfect fit?
Welcome to the new free agency.