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UFA Option: Jason Williams

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Jason Williams (career stats) is coming off the best offensive season of his career, at least in terms of points per game, and at 27 years of age will be an unrestricted free agent as of July 1st.

Last season, Williams ranked 7th among Chicago forwards in TOI/60, with 11:50 at EV, 0:22 SH, and 4:21 on the powerplay (leading Blackhawks forwards in PP TOI).

5-on-5, Williams played the 3rd toughest competition among Blackhawks regulars, playing with the second best teammates, in what sounds like a power vs. power matchup. It's difficult to say with certainty if this was Savard's plan for the entire year, given the number of injuries Chicago dealt with (Williams, Havlat and Toews all missed significant time). In any case, Williams excelled, posting a 3.02 GFON/60 and a 2.78 GAON/60.

5-on-4, Williams posted an unbelievably gaudy 7.68 GFON/60 with only 0.35 GAON/60, with only Jonathan Toews comparable on the team (Havlat put up some ugly numbers, while Kane was merely OK). Also of note, Williams had significantly more primary than secondary assists at both 5-on-5 and 5-on-4.

RTSS tells us that Williams posted 27 hits and 8 shot blocks in 43 games. Extrapolated over a full season, it comes to 51 and 15, numbers that would have put him near the middle of Oilers forwards (note: Williams historically averages more hits than this). Something that is of note is that his 101 shots, prorated, would have put him 2nd on the Oilers in total shots (193).

The 2006-07 season was a different story for Williams; he played butter-soft minutes for the Wings (among regular forwards, only Hudler got protected more) and he lit up the opposition (3.29 GFON/60) with middling defensive numbers (2.45 GAON/60). The Hawks decision to use him in a power-vs-power role is rather interesting; they evidently felt he would be able to handle it and they were right.

Looking back over the past few years it becomes clear that Williams has always been something of a PP specialist; two years ago, for example, he 24 of his 58 points came on the powerplay. Looking back at the Oilers power-play from this year, it seems clear that he would be an upgrade over most of the personnel there, and would be a great option for the first unit. Additionally, he could slot in nicely to that 2nd-line wing position that I rather suspect is open; and he's played tough minutes with success so he isn't a player that needs the shielding that most of the young fellows need. He's also relatively young; a three or four year contract wouldn't neccessarily hurt the team. Given that he's rarely mentioned in the top tier of free agent forwards, and he was injured half of last season he might fly under the radar. My only concern is his size, since the Oilers do not need more small forwards, but his other virtues still make him a useful player.

Finally, in the spring the Chicago Tribune reported Williams likely wouldn't return to the Blackhawks (sorry, the link has since gone dead), and it's difficult to see him getting much more than the 3-4 million range on the open market. As always, it's just my opinion, but Jason Williams is a player of interest to the Oilers.