Every Wednesday, a trio of SI.com staffers sits down for a discussion of the hockey world's hot button issues. This week, Sarah Kwak, Sam Page and Al Muir assess the trade market just two weeks out from the March 2 deadline and the best on-ice burns.
• The Predators fired a shot across the bow of other Stanley Cup contenders with their early and aggressive acquisitions of Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli from Toronto. Which team most needs to step up and match their move?
SARAH KWAK: I think Tampa Bay could use a good experienced defenseman to round out its group. The Lightning's forwards are fast and nifty, and their goalies are more than serviceable. But on defense, they are a little lacking and could use an upgrade. GM Steve Yzerman doesn't like trading picks for rentals, but only two of his defensemen have more than 25 games of postseason experience. That said, the pool of available defensemen with playoff experience is thin—if it even exists. So if they could swing for a player who may carry term, maybe someone like Maple Leafs defensemen Stephane Robidas or Dion Phaneuf. Perhaps that's worth a pick?
SAM PAGE: I'll take the question a bit more literally and consider the teams that should be most considering an arms race with the Preds, which excludes the East. To that end, it seems the Ducks have to make a move. There were questions about how good they really were before Sami Vatanen and Matt Belesky went down. Now they need urgent reinforcements on both offense and defense. The Pacific Division seems like a lock for them at this point. But if we're looking ahead to the playoffs, it's hard to pick them over one of the Central's top three.
AL MUIR: I'll stick with the West too and say the Kings. Maybe it's a stretch to call them contenders when they're sitting out of the top eight, but we all know what the defending champs are about. Open the door just a crack and they'll barge in and start trashing the place. That door opens up if they add a veteran, top-four defenseman. Doesn't necessarily have to be a big name like Phaneuf or Keith Yandle. Andrej Sekera is one option. Roman Polak would be a nice fit as well, although he might be tough to pry away from the Leafs. I know L.A.'s GM Dean Lombardi is playing it cool, but I think he's got something cooking.
MUIR: I think the Bruins are the team most in need of, well, something. And given Peter Chiarelli's history, I think he waits until the last minute and imports a big winger and possibly a low-end defenseman. They have so many glaring issues though—they lack depth and speed and resilience—that I think they'd be better served by selling off a few aging pieces like Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg than paying some exorbitant price to prop them up for one last ill-fated run at the Cup.
MUIR: Love Vermette. Does nothing great but everything well. He could be a really useful piece for someone. How about this name: Daniel Briere? No, he's not exactly tearing it up for the Avalanche this season, but we all know what he does when the playoffs roll around: 53 goals and 116 points in 124 career games. Those aren't front-loaded totals, either. He has 30 goals in his past four trips to the postseason. And you can bet he'd be a cheap pickup. I like Jeff Petry as an option here, too.
KWAK: Hmm …I'd have to think about that one a bit—particularly one that's safe to print—but off the top of my head, Chris Pronger's burn on Adam Burish after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010. In the Cup afterglow, bit player Burish called Pronger the biggest idiot in the league and said the next time he sees him he might punch him. When asked the next day about Burish's threat, Pronger responded: "And where is that? In the minors?" Then came Pronger's wonderfully wide smile. He was always good for zingers.