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Caps' newcomers make presence felt in first game

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Caps' newcomers make presence felt in first game

After yet another devastating playoff loss, you would believe some of the enthusiasm surrounding the Capitals would begin to wear off. Yet, heading into the new season, there was renewed optimism yet again in Washington due in large part to the offseason acquisitions of Justin Williams and T.J. Oshie. Though their first game was far from perfect, they clearly made their impact felt with their new team.

Williams recorded two assists and Oshie chipped in with four shots on goal, tied with Ovechkin for the team high, to help lead the Caps to a 5-3 season-opening win over the the New Jersey Devils.

"We're still working and it's not perfect yet," said Ovechkin about his new linemates of Oshie and Evgeny Kunzetsov, "but I'm pretty sure we're going to be fine and we're going to be good."

"It was just a real choppy game," Williams said. "Certainly nobody's in midseason form yet, but stuff we can clean up."

RELATED: Ovechkin too much for Devils in opener

Despite all the excitement surrounding Oshie teaming up with the Great 8, it was Williams who got on the scoresheet first.

While on the penalty kill, John Carlson attempted to dump the puck deep, but it went right to Williams who skated it  into the offensive zone. With three Devils bunching around him, Williams found the trailing Chimera with a backhanded pass and then skated to the net. Chimera tried to pass it back to Williams but it was tipped past goalie Keith Kinkaid by Devils defenseman Jordin Tootoo giving Williams his first point, an assist, as a Cap.

Oshie may not have gotten on the scoresheet, but did display more of the toughness that quickly endeared him to the fans in the preseason.

Early in the first period, Oshie took the puck behind his own net and spotted New Jersey forward Brian O'Neill close on his heels. Rather than trying to out-skate him around the net, Oshie instead squared him up and laid him out with a beautiful shoulder check. It is that mixture of skill and toughness that makes him such an intriguing addition to the top line.

"Both had their moments," said head coach Barry Trotz. "Both had their moments when they were really good and there were some moments where I think they could be better and that's a new team, a new setting. I think that's just normal."

As the game went along, it was evident that the players were already adjusting to their new linemates as the Caps slowly began taking control.

"Our line didn't play well for maybe two periods but in the third we [period] we started moving the puck and we controlled the puck," Ovechkin said.

One adjustment the newcomers will happily make is getting used to playing along side a superstar like Ovechkin. When asked about Ovechkin's third-period goal that put the Caps up 3-2, Williams smiled and said, "If he can do that every time we're tied in the 3rd period, that'll be fine."

MORE CAPITALS: Must see: Ovechkin with a spectacular goal to start the season

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Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, officially named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz finds contract he was looking for, officially named New York Islanders new head coach

Barry Trotz did not remain unemployed for very long.

Trotz, who led the Capitals to the franchise's first-ever Stanley Cup title, resigned from his post less than a week after the team's championship parade in Washington, D.C.

But on Thursday, the Capitals' now former bench boss was officially named the head coach of the New York Islanders.

Trotz's contract was expected to expire at the end of the 2017-18 season, but upon winning the Stanley Cup, an automatic two-year extension was triggered, raising his $1.5 million yearly salary by $300,000. But Trotz wanted to be compensated as one of the top five coaches in the NHL.

While the terms of his deal have yet to be finalized, according to Elliotte Friedman, Trotz's deal could be in the 5-year, $20 million range.

With the Islanders, Trotz inherits a team that finished 35-37-10 last season under head coach Doug Weight, despite having John Tavares, one of the best centers in the NHL, and several young studs like Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, and Josh Ho-Sang. But Tavares enters the offseason as a free agent, and many teams will be looking to pay top-dollar for his services. 

Trotz will report to Lou Lamoriello, who was named the Islanders' president and general manager in May after spending three seasons in the same role with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

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USA TODAY Sports

The Caps' Cup-winning roster is a lesson in building through the draft

Every year, the Stanley Cup-winning team shows the importance of building through the draft. This year, that team is the Washington Capitals.

With the NHL Draft starting on Friday, let’s break down the Capitals roster from the playoffs to see just how it was put together.

Acquired by the draft: Nicklas Backstrom, Madison Bowey, Travis Boy, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Shane Gersich, Philipp Grubauer, Braden Holtby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Alex Ovechkin, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Nathan Walker, Tom Wilson

Acquired as a free agent: Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson, Brett Connolly, Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik, Devante Smith-Pelly

Acquired by trade: Lars Eller, Jakub Jerabek, Michal Kempny, T.J. Oshie

The first thing to note is that the vast majority of Washington’s roster is made up of draft picks. Specifically, the majority of the Caps’ top six on offense, three of its top six defensemen and both goalies were drafted by the team.

Of the free agent signings, only two were big money players in Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik. In 2014, defense was a major question mark for the Caps and Brian MacLellan made a splash as the new general manager by signing both blue liners to big deals. The majority of the signings, however, are cheap, low risk and high reward players.

Finally, the trades include players who filled obvious needs. The Caps needed Oshie to shore up the top six, Eller was brought in to be the third line center, Kempny stepped in as a top-four defenseman and Jerabek was brought in for defensive depth.

So what does this show us?

First, the draft is absolutely critical to building a team’s core. True superstar players are hard to come by. Once a team gets one, they do everything they can to keep them. The draft is a team's first opportunity to acquire a certain player and, if they have superstar potential, sign them long-term. John Tavares this season looks headed to free agency and the buzz around him stems from the fact that he is very much the exception, not the rule. The base of the Caps’ Stanley Cup team was built by drafting star players like Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Carlson, Holtby, etc.

This also shows the importance of the draft for depth. In the salary cap era, teams need to find enough cap room for their stars and their depth players. Having young players is absolutely critical because their low cap hit allows for the team to sign the expensive stars and make the important addition in free agency  or by trade. This is a formula that only works if those young players are productive as well.

Players like Vrana and Burakovsky, for example, played big roles in the playoff run, but also carried low cap hits.

So the Caps built a core through the draft and filled key roles with trades and mostly cheap free agent signings.

There is no formula for how to win a Stanley Cup, if there was everyone would do it, but this is about as close as you can come to one. A team has to draft very well and then build around those draft picks to be successful. You cannot hope to build simply through trades and free agency because of the cost. Trades always require sending an asset the other way and very often that asset turns out to be prospects or draft picks. Free agency, meanwhile, requires team overpay for top targets leading to serious cap trouble down the line.

There are always trades and free agent signings that prove to be important, but those are only pieces to a much large puzzle. To win a Stanley Cup, you have to build through the draft.

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