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NHL Blog Council: Answering the big questions facing contenders at the trade deadline

The Council is now in session.

With a network as vast as ours here at SB Nation, we figured we'd put our fine hockey bloggers to good use. You've got questions every week. We know. And we're here to help.

Each Monday at 12 p.m. ET we'll take your questions on Twitter at @SBNationNHL. Our NHL Blog Council (made up of different bloggers from around the SBN hockey network) will meet and consider your queries. And on Thursdays we will render our verdicts to the masses.

Without further ado ...

Blog Council: COMMENCE

Eric KvetonJewels From The Crown:: A lot of people have marveled at the Ducks' turnaround, ignoring the fact that this was already a very good team despite a snakebitten start. The big conflict for them is that they're currently better-positioned than almost any team in the league to contend for the next five years, no questions asked, thanks to depth players that are young, cheap and good. (That's the trifecta!)

Charlie O'ConnorBroad Street Hockey: They certainly have the space to make a move -- GeneralFanager.com projects that Anaheim will have a little over $35 million in banked cap room on deadline day.  But in many ways, the trade for David Perron (who has been fantastic since joining the Ducks) last month could function as their deadline splash. The defense doesn’t really need help, and while every team could use more scoring depth, a trade for a rental like Loui Eriksson or Andrew Ladd feels more like a luxury than a necessity at this point. Maybe they make a move for a cheap depth winger, but I believe GM Bob Murray will mostly stand pat.

Ryan MurphyMile High Hockey: It took the Ducks nearly three months to find enough chemistry to climb back in a really weak Pacific Division. If I'm Bob Murray, I'm reticent to make any move so big that it disturbs it disturbs the progress they've made. Like a lot of other teams in their position, I think they'll look at short-term bottom-six supplements, but not a blockbuster move. They'll learn quite a bit more about their current roster, and whether a shakeup is in order, during the playoffs.

Callum FraserSilver Seven Sens: I don’t think we see Anaheim do anything whatsoever. They’re a great team that inexplicably was a disappointment for the first 30 games, but they’ve definitely hit their stride and have hit it hard. I don’t think it’s out of the question that they win the Pacific and go on a deep playoff run. Being relatively healthy -- only Chris Stewart on the IR -- and 8-1-1 in their last 10, there’s no reason to not believe this team has worked out the kinks and are back to being the Cup contender everyone pinned them to be in September.

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Eric Kveton, Jewels From The Crown: I don't envy the Penguins. They're in the buy-or-die eighth seed in the East, and a lack of trade deadline activity is probably going to be seen as a huge failure. Their prospect pool, however, is not good. At all. If the question is "Should they make a move?" I'd lean towards no, especially with Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bonino returning in the next week. But this is the team that panicked and shipped Simon Despres out of town for Ben Lovejoy. I think they'll go after a big fish, regardless of the future pain.

Charlie O'Connor, Broad Street Hockey: Pittsburgh has been playing lights-out hockey over the past two months, both due to star Sidney Crosby finding his game and the coaching switch from Mike Johnston to Mike Sullivan. Still, this is a team with a fairly weak defense beyond Kris Letang, Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot and the surprising Brian Dumoulin. They’ve been linked with Flames defenseman Kris Russell, who seems to have a reputation as a solid top-four blueliner even if the stats do not back up that leaguewide perception. My guess is that the Penguins add a fairly significant rental defenseman before the deadline hits.

Ryan Murphy, Mile High Hockey: The offense is starting to click, but this is a team that still has enough defensive deficiencies that they will probably look at an upgrade. There does not appear to be much of a market for top-four defensemen at the moment, and I'm not sure what's left in the farm there after the Kessel trade. But if you're not making a push every year of Crosby's prime, you're making a mistake.

Callum Fraser, Silver Seven Sens: If you consider getting Evgeni Malkin back from injury, then yes. Pittsburgh has been holding their own without one of the best forwards in the league for over three weeks now, and Malkin is set to return this Saturday. That's a pretty significant acquisition, if you ask me.

If there's anything they do, though, it's likely to be minor. The Penguins may be in the middle of a playoff push - only one point ahead of the Devils for eighth in the Eastern Conference (keep in mind I'm writing this Wednesday afternoon) - but anything they do, I see it being minor. Maybe acquiring a third-to-fourth-line depth forward. Nothing huge.

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Eric Kveton, Jewels From The Crown: I'm sure they'll make an offer, but I don't think they're the eventual landing spot. The Blues are 10 points clear of the third and final automatic playoff spot in the Central Division and 15 points clear of the ninth spot in the West. Jaden Schwartz has scored four goals in six games since returning from his own significant injury. Steen will probably be back before the playoffs. Robby Fabbri has been incredibly productive on the left side. Simply put, they aren't desperate at all, and some other team will outbid them.

Charlie O'Connor, Broad Street Hockey: In many ways, this is a move that makes way too much sense for the Blues. Despite pondering the possibility of blowing up their core last offseason, the Blues remain one of the better teams in the Western Conference, even if they are a cut below favorites Dallas, Los Angeles and Anaheim. To match up with dominant puck possession competition in the playoffs, it would help to add a dominant puck possession winger, and Eriksson fits the bill. He ranks 19th among NHL forwards this year with a +5.93% Corsi Relative to his teammates, and he's also scored 48 points in 60 games. He’s absolutely a difference-maker.

Ryan Murphy, Mile High Hockey: It depends on what the price is for Eriksson, who is probably the best player available at the deadline, but a mere rental with his expiring contract. Are they Blues in a position to sacrifice future pieces for their current group? Probably. Is a defensive middle-six player like Eriksson the right player to step in for Alexander Steen on a team that already struggles to score? They may find a better solution elsewhere.

Callum Fraser, Silver Seven Sens: At first glance, I think it might make sense to do that. Loui Eriksson is a very similar player to Alexander Steen. Both are extremely skilled forwards and both are in their very early thirties. While Steen has 47 points in 61 games, Eriksson has 48 in 60, so essentially, you're adding a player with the same offensive output as the one you just lost for at least a month.

Having said that though, the Blues aren't exactly battling for a playoff spot. Right now, they're jostling with the Stars and Blackhawks to see who will win the conference, so it's not like they're in dire need of a player to help them get into the postseason. The smart thing to do is to stay the course. Besides, the Blues are a cap team; adding Eriksson -- worth $4.25 million -- would mean shaking quite a few things up and possibly toying with some of their future.

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