Trade deadline best available players, must-avoids, more on our Roundtable

Wednesday February 18th, 2015

Every Wednesday, a trio of 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.

First up:

• 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? 

Look for more multiplayer trades as NHL deadline approaches

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.

• At the other end of the scale, several bubble teams could be in the market for last-minute reinforcements. Which team most needs a pre-deadline shakeup?
KWAK: San Jose has a pretty tenuous grasp on that second wild card spot, what with L.A. and Minnesota surging. If the Sharks want to hold onto it, they'll need to pump up their offense. But I don't know if they're looking to buy. They're in an investment mode and don't seem keen on giving up assets for short-term goals. So while they may need it, I don't see them doing it.

Gutsy Dallas Stars fighting on in West without star forward Tyler Seguin

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.

PAGE: I think the Wild would be wise to pick up some depth. Getting a dependable goalie in Devan Dubnyk has given them a new lease on life. The way they're playing now, I'd put them ahead of the other wild card contenders. With a hot tender and a strong puck possession game, they've got the makings of a first round upset threat. But it's not as if their core of Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, and Thomas Vanek is getting any younger. 
MUIR: Yeah, and with Jason Zucker out for the season, they need someone who can step onto their second line and be a fairly consistent provider of secondary offense.
• Since we're talking buyers, give me the one pending UFA you think could be the most impactful acquisition ahead of the deadline.
KWAK: Issue here is that a lot of pending UFAs are on contending teams, which is good for them, I suppose. So let's talk about someone like Coyotes center Antoine Vermette. He leads Arizona's forwards with 35 points, and he would be a useful player on a good team. He wins 56.1% of his draws, and can play on the power play and the penalty kill. He's not a blockbuster get, but he could move the needle just enough to help a team that's on the verge.

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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.

PAGE: Petry could be an underrated pick-up for some team. He's managed to maintain his reputation as a solid puck-mover, despite playing on the Oilers, which isn't nothing. Petry is also a right-handed defenseman, of which every team but maybe the Predators could seemingly use more.
• How about the one you wouldn't touch with a stick?
KWAK: TSN has listed Hurricanes winger Jiri Tlusty eighth on their trade bait list. Well, he may have gotten off to a strong start, with eight points in his first nine games, but as for the other 39, he's only pitched in 12 more. He hasn't been a factor on the power play in months, doesn't kill penalties and he's –17 this season, tied for worst on the team. Don't buy.
PAGE: I'd pass on Chris Stewart from the Sabres. He can pitch in some points, but he's a bottom-six power forward with deteriorating defensive ability. What contending team needs that?
MUIR: Could not agree more on Stewart. I've watched him twice in the last 10 days, and I think he combined for one shot and one hit in those two games. You want a bigger sample size? How about this: For the season, he ranks fourth among Buffalo forwards in offensive zone face-offs, but somehow he's 14th (out of 15!) in Fenwick For percentage. The guy is just an empty sweater out there. I think I'd steer clear of Jaromir Jagr as well. His last two playoff runs: 33 games, one goal.
• Finally, Alex Ovechkin responded to Ryan Getzlaf's recent diving comments by taking a shot at his receding hairline. All in good fun, of course. That got me thinking: What's the best on-ice zinger you've heard?

Extra Mustard
Alex Ovechkin doesn't care for criticism from bald men

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. 

MUIR: Pronger was the best. Always knew just where to cut a guy. Too bad his best stuff is wildly unsuitable for this site. One chirp that immediately comes to mind for me is the simple yet biting mot juste that Drew Doughty delivered to Patrick Maroon in last year's Stadium Series game: "Buddy, you suck at hockey!" The look on his face and the way he said it, it's like he's genuinely amazed THAT Maroon is in the NHL. Cracks me up every time I see it. Funny thing is my kid, who is a bit of a chirper on the ice, has worked it into his own vast repertoire of material. He says nothing gets under another guy's skin quite like that line. Genius.
SP: I always liked Claude Giroux calling James van Riemsdyk a pigeon, then cooing like a bird. He missed a second calling as a naturalist. 
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