Keith Srakocic/Associated Press
Without a doubt, no team in the Metropolitan Division made more noise in free agency than the Washington Capitals. However, questions remain as to whether the money they spent this summer will result in a trip to the playoffs next April.
Having doled out a combined $11.25 million a year for former Penguins Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, the Capitals find themselves flush with defensemen but with big question marks in net and up front.
Despite icing the second-ranked power-play unit in the NHL behind the Penguins last season, the Capitals struggled to score goals at even strength.
If former head coach Adam Oates couldn't get them on the right track, what will their offense look like under new bench boss Barry Trotz? He was known as a defense-first coach in Nashville.
Although Alexander Ovechkin can always be relied upon to be among the league leaders in goals, the Caps' supporting cast is thin. Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer, who tallied 24 and 25 goals, respectively, last season, don't figure to match those career highs again in a more disciplined system.
For what it's worth, Trotz told NHL.com's Dan Rosen in August that his previous system was tailored to the players at his disposal. "With the forwards I have in Washington, I hope to keep their offensive production very high and add some more offense from the back end," he said.
In net, the Caps will again turn to Braden Holtby.
He was benched in favor of Jaroslav Halak down the stretch last season but will be the starter this year by default with Halak playing for the New York Islanders.
Verdict: The Capitals missed the playoffs last season, and despite the big contracts they handed out, they will likely be fighting for a wild-card berth down the stretch instead of challenging the Pens at the top of the standings.