Caps landing ‘affordable’ Williams a sign of the new free agency


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 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.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

caufield surgery
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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

matty beniers
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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.