Last year, it took quite a while for Justin Williams to determine his NHL future. Instead of signing with Carolina, he took a step back to ponder his future in September before ultimately rejoining the Hurricanes in January. It appears as if things could be heading down a similar path this offseason, as general manager Don Waddell told Luke DeCock of the Raleigh News & Observer that they aren’t expecting the veteran to return, but they haven’t ruled it out entirely yet either.
The 38-year-old picked up eight goals over his 20 regular-season games with Carolina in 2020 despite playing just 13:37 per night, which is strong production for someone who joined the team midseason after not playing. Before that, he had four straight years between 48 and 52 points, so it’s clear that Williams can still play at the top level. Instead, the question remains whether or not he wants to.
His agent, Thane Campbell, indicated that a decision won’t be coming before the start of free agency on October 9 and that he expects it will once again take a while for Williams to figure out what he wants to do. Considering he was willing to sign a contract for the league minimum (plus $1.3M in incentives, $500K of which was earned), this is a decision that can be dragged out for a while. At this point, it seems likely that he’d rejoin the Hurricanes, so as long as they leave themselves a bit of wiggle room in the coming months, they’ll be able to bring Williams back if he wants to return. But for now, they’ll plan as if his time with the team has come to an end.