Trading right winger Justin Williams to Carolina for defenseman Danny Markov in 2004 will go down as one of the worst deals in Flyers history.
The Flyers got a reminder of that trade Friday, when Williams helped the Los Angeles Kings win their second Stanley Cup in three seasons with a wildly exciting 3-2 double-overtime victory over the gritty-but-outmatched New York Rangers.
Afterward, Williams won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the top performer in this year’s playoffs.
“It's pretty sweet. To get that award and to get the ovation I got from my teammates was pretty special and emotional for me,” said Williams, who lives in Ventnor, N.J., in the summer.
Williams, 32, had nine goals _ including the first one on Friday _ and 16 assists in 26 playoff games this year. He had a Finals-best seven points as the Kings defeated the Rangers, four games to one.
With his young son Jackson sitting by his side, Williams said the Conn Smythe Trophy could have gone to several of his teammates.
“Up and down our lineup, you can make a case for any line, any ‘D’ pair,” said Williams, one of the NHL’s top playoff performers since 2006. “That's not just blowing smoke. That's the God's honest truth. To be singled out like that, have my teammates give me applause, be genuinely excited for me, that was the most special thing.”
The Kings, of course, also feature former Flyers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Carter, Richards and Williams narrowly missed scoring in OT before Alec Martinez deposited the game-winner on a rebound.
Selected by the Flyers in the first round of 2000, Williams was traded for Markov four years later. Williams scored 31 regular-season goals and helped Carolina win the 2006 Cup, collecting 18 points in 25 playoff games.
"This was a necessity," general manager Bob Clarke said when the Flyers made the deal. He cited injuries to three defensemen _ Eric Desjardins (fractured right forearm), Dennis Seidenberg (fractured left leg) and Marcus Ragnarsson (sprained left rotator cuff) _ as the reason for the trade.
"The only way we were going to get a top-four (defenseman) was to give up a top player,” Clarke said. “We certainly didn't want to give up Justin, but we didn't have a choice.”
In his career, the tenacious Williams has 209 goals and 541 points. He has become known as Mr. Game 7 for his clutch play in those playoff deciders. This year, he had two goals and three assists as the resilient Kings won three Game 7s.
Markov? He played 34 games with the Flyers in his only season with the team. He played in Russia during the 2004-05 lockout and then was dealt by the Flyers to Nashville for a third-round draft pick.
Williams said this championship, his third, was special.
“What we went through this year as opposed to 2012, the Game 7s, the backs against the wall….What we went through to get to this point is unique,” said Williams, whose team overcame a 3-0 series deficit in the first round against San Jose. “Obviously every Stanley Cup is special in its own way, but we really had to earn this one.”
Follow Sam Carchidi on Twitter @BroadStBull.