The Washington Capitals this offseason have signed a player known for his prowess in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and traded for another who's a proven goal-scorer in the prime of his career.
Despite the additions of forwards Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie, coach Barry Trotz isn't automatically labeling the 2015-16 version of the Capitals as an improvement over the group that took the New York Rangers to overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Second Round last season before being eliminated. Washington held a 3-1 lead in that series.
"We'll have to answer that into next year," he said Tuesday, according to CSNWashington.com. "Just because you bring players in -- in terms of pure talent you think it's an upgrade -- doesn't mean we're going to be a better team because there is a chemistry to it all."
The Capitals subtracted some elements from that previous group, sending forward Troy Brouwer to the St. Louis Blues in the Oshie trade and allowing defenseman Mike Green and forward Joel Ward to sign elsewhere as free agents. Forward Eric Fehr is a free agent who is unlikely to return.
Williams, who turns 34 in October, returns to the Eastern Conference after spending six-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Kings. He won the Stanley Cup twice and cemented his legacy as a clutch performer by winning the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2014 and running his record to 7-0 in Game 7.
Williams has scored at least 18 goals and 40 points in each of the past four full NHL seasons. He began his career with the Philadelphia Flyers and played four seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, winning his first Stanley Cup there in 2006.
Oshie, 28, had the second-most productive season of his NHL career with 19 goals and 55 points last season. He scored 21 goals and 60 points the previous season and is a notable shootout threat, evidenced by his performance for the United States at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"Justin Williams is a very intelligent player. He can play with high-end guys and really complements those guys and he produces," Trotz said. "T.J. is very, very competitive. He's got a real good skill set, he can be dynamic at times 1-on-1. He's a pure athlete, so he can do some things us non-athletes can't do."
The Capitals won 45 games and finished second in the Metropolitan Division with 101 points in Trotz's first season, defeating the New York Islanders in a seven-game series before losing to the Rangers.
Now the challenge is taking the next step in a division that has seen the Pittsburgh Penguins reload with Phil Kessel and the Columbus Blue Jackets pick up two-time Stanley Cup champion Brandon Saad. The Capitals will have to figure out how the new pieces fit in, and Trotz cast doubt during a radio interview with DC 101 Tuesday whether center Nicklas Backstrom, who had offseason hip surgery, will be ready for the start of the season, calling it "up in the air."
"What we have to do with our team is understand that we set a good foundation," Trotz said. "That's the minimum standard. We want a higher standard than that and it takes hard work. Champions do more and we're going to have to do a little bit more."