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By Allan Muir
February 18, 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? 

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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
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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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
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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