Not to be overlooked today is Justin Williams’ signing of a four-year, $14.6-million contract extension. Williams, 29, enters tonight’s game tied for the team lead with 20 goals. Here are Dean Lombardi’s thoughts on Williams’ signing, followed by an interview I did with Williams this morning and a video interview he did with Heidi Androl…
Question: Can you talk about getting Williams locked up?
LOMBARDI: “That’s huge. Last night, as these (trade) deals go back and forth, you can get frustrated, but right in the middle of it we were trying to get Justin done. As you see, there were a lot of these deals, with guys getting (contract extensions) right at the deadline. I’m thrilled. He’s one of our most-skilled players. I think it would have been a massive hole, to lose his skill level. So our team, possibly, would have gone backward before it went forward. So he’s as big a part of the last 48 hours as bringing in Dustin Penner. That’s an important piece for us, and I’m thrilled that he took a reasonable (salary) number that works for us long term.”
Question: He made no secret, before the start of the season, about needing to play well in a contract year. I’m guessing you’ve liked what you’ve seen…
LOMBARDI: “He started out a little rough (last season) with the injury. I remember when we got him, he was actually hurt. But we knew him as a player from Philadelphia pretty well. What he has given us doesn’t surprise us. This is a good hockey player. That connect-the-dots type guy, we need that. That’s what he brings.”
And Williams’ thoughts about signing the extension…
WILLIAMS: “I’d never really been in the situation to do a contract extension before. It went well. I think it worked well for both sides. The team has put faith in me and I, in turn, want to make them all look good and be very productive during my time here.”
Question: You could have waited until the summer, as an unrestricted free agent. Was it just that you were sure this is where you wanted to be?
WILLIAMS: “I’ve been here for two years now, and there’s something to be said for familiarity and the direction of the team. This team is going in the real right direction, and I want to be a part of it when it gets really good, and be here when we make pushes in the playoffs and eventually win the Stanley Cup. Who knows when that’s going to happen, but I hope to be here when it does.”
Question: Did the negotiations take quite a while?
WILLIAMS: “They’ve been discussing it for a while. I’m happy it’s done. It’s a little bit stressful, on your mind a little bit, so it’s good to have that done and have that security. Now it’s time for me to go out and show them they made a good investment.”