The Vicky Files: Don't do anything you don't want to

In latest research news, the average man endures approximately three years of dating (technically two years, 11 months and a handful of days) before proposing marriage to his best gal.

This is by no means a rule of any sort; it's just a simple statistic. Unfortunately, that hasn't stopped a small percentage of women from using this seemingly innocent information as a weapon. These uptight biddies believe that if a guy hasn't popped the question by the three-year mark, the lady involved should issue an ultimatum: Marry me by such and such a time or we're through. How romantic. And not only is forcing a dude to get hitched a sure-fire way to ensure a long, healthy and successful marriage, but it's a great bedtime story for the kids later on (assuming the marriage lasts long enough to produce offspring):

"Daddy, why did you and Mummy get married?"

"Well, your mummy said if I didn't get my act together and put a ring on her finger by June of that year, she would break up with me and start dating this guy named Robert because he would marry her in a flash and she wouldn't have to put up with any more of my … "


Obvious moral of the story: There's no point in trying to force someone into doing something he or she doesn't want to do. It simply won't pay off in the long run. And on the flip side, it's equally unwise to let someone push you into an unwanted situation. If it doesn't feel right, it's because it isn't. Do you hear me, Richard? Read on.

I'm not doing well in the goalie department with Kari Lehtonen, Brent Johnson and Peter Budaj, and I've been offered Mike Smith for Ilya Kovalchuk and Andrei Markov. I think that's too much to give up, but I don't know if I have another choice. And my league's trade deadline is only days away.
Richard from Squamish, British Columbia

Your collection of goalies is pretty putrid, Richard, but that doesn't mean you should succumb to pressure and do something silly. This trade is outrageously unfair, and I'm sending out a disapproving scowl in your leaguemate's direction for even proposing it (that'll show him/her).

As Tampa Bay's new No. 1, Smith hasn't looked too shabby in his first two games, but he still plays for one of the worst teams in the NHL and certainly doesn't warrant a top forward and elite defenseman. That's just ludicrous. Unless you're in a massive league, someone else will have an expendable goalie. Take the initiative and quickly propose a sensible exchange yourself.

And feel free to dispose of Johnson immediately. Unless Cristobal Huet or Olaf Kolzig gets hurt, Washington's No. 3 netminder won't play another game for the Capitals this season.

I'm currently sitting third in a 10-team league. I've managed to put together a very solid team but don't want to falter in the first round of the playoffs, as I always seem to do. My team: Brad Richards, Jason Spezza, Scott Gomez, Dany Heatley, Rick Nash, Scott Hartnell, Patrick Sharp, Nathan Horton and Teemu Selanne on offense. On defense: Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Dan Boyle and Ryan Whitney. My goalies are Henrik Lundqvist, Miikka Kiprusoff and Martin Gerber. I was offered J.P. Dumont and Jonathan Cheechoo for Hartnell and Horton. Would you make this trade?
I think the trade helps because I have a few too many guys on the same teams in Ottawa, Philadelphia and Anaheim, and when they get shut out, it hurts. But I just want to know which duo you think will perform better down the stretch.

Jarret from Denver

What's interesting here is that, while reading your note, Hartnell and Horton struck me as the two weakest players even before I reached your query. Hartnell's production has dried up substantially since his mid-January tear, and he has only one point in his past eight games. Despite two recent wins in a row, the Flyers, as an entire team, are struggling these days, and there's no reason to forecast an extreme flip in fortune. As for Horton, I'm not his biggest fan. Sure, he's talented, but I believe the Florida forward has overachieved this year. I'd readily dish him off at this point for someone with more potential on an all-around stronger team.

Dumont, on the other hand, has been consistently explosive for more than two months. Amazingly, with 12 points in his past seven games, he has failed to make the score sheet only twice since December. You can't ask for more consistency than that. And after a disappointing showing until recently, Cheechoo seems to have found his scoring touch again with four goals in his past five games. He's spending a little more time in the box these days, as well, which would help offset the loss of Hartnell's penalty minutes.

So yes, do the deal. It works in your favor. And as for your concerns about having too many players from similar teams, don't worry, your squad is diversified enough.

Would you give up Martin St. Louis for Dion Phaneuf? I know it's not a good idea to give up a forward for a defenseman, but I could really use penalty minutes.
Matt from Maine

Why isn't it a good idea to trade a forward for a defenseman? There are no such hard, fast rules in fantasy hockey land. If you need penalty minutes, Phaneuf will help you out in that department. He's also one of the best blueliners out there in general. You wouldn't take a huge hit in the scoring department, and Phaneuf is extremely productive with the man advantage. As a bonus, your plus/minus would get a slight boost, as well.

I'm more curious as to why your potential trade partner wants to make this transaction, but perhaps that team really needs a scoring winger, in which case it makes reasonable sense. Trades are supposed to be mutually beneficial; that's the whole idea. You give up something in excess to fill a need, and the other person does the same. There's no necessity for exploitation.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.
You can send her e-mail for potential use in "The Vicky Files" by clicking here.