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Rumor Roundup: How much should the Maple Leafs pay Phaneuf?

Is Dion worth $50 million over seven years? Will the Oilers stand pat despite defensive deficiencies? Just how many draft picks do the Sabres plans on acquiring?

Contract talks between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Dion Phaneuf’s agent opened earlier this week. While the two sides have yet to swap numbers, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos believes the parameters are $50 million over seven years.

Kypreos cited Phaneuf’s age (he’ll turn 29 next April) as why he feels the Leafs won’t offer a full eight-year contract, adding Phaneuf isn’t interested in anything six years or less. He noted Phaneuf ranks among the top 10 blueliners in several categories, including games played, goals, points, power play goals and ice time, since 2005-06.

Those numbers make a strong case for a lucrative extension, but Phaneuf’s critics believe his defensive deficiencies trump his offensive skills. A significant raise above his current annual cap hit of $6.5 million won’t sit well with some denizens of Leafs Nation.

Kypreos’ colleague Gord Stellick advised GM Dave Nonis to proceed with caution, noting previous Leafs management overpaid for defenseman John-Michael Liles and former Leafs blueliners Jeff Finger, Mike Komisarek and Brian McCabe.

Working in Phaneuf’s favor is the fact the Leafs have no suitable replacement for him within their system. And finding one via trade or next summer’s free agent market is almost impossible.

Parting ways with Phaneuf for a more affordable option would free up cap space, but would also leave a hole too big to fill in the Leafs blueline.

Edmonton Oilers fans are calling for GM Craig MacTavish to swing a deal to reverse their club’s fortunes, but MacTavish told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson he won’t be pressured into a hasty trade.

Matheson reports MacTavish won’t part with all his picks in next year’s draft, but wouldn’t rule out shopping his first round pick.

Defense and goaltending remain the Oilers weaknesses. Oilers radio analyst Bob Stauffer believes they need a “Marc Methot, stay-at-home experienced defenseman” who could allow Justin Schultz to jump into the rush more often.

Stauffer suggests Columbus Blue Jackets D-man Nikita Nikitin, who has been a healthy scratch in the past four games, as a trade target. Nikitin could be an affordable pickup, but MacTavish will need to do more to bolster his defense.

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TSN’s Darren Dreger reported MacTavish is working the phones, but he is unwilling to part with his core of young talent (Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner, Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz) or top young prospects like defenseman Oscar Klefbom.

As always, the problem for MacTavish is he’s dealing with a trade market where pickings are slim and asking prices high.

It takes value to get value. As long as MacTavish is unwilling to part with any good young players, he and his staff have little choice but to tough it out and hope things turn around soon.

Matt Moulson had a memorable debut Monday with the Buffalo Sabres, scoring twice in a 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars.

If Moulson can manage 20-30 goals with the woeful Sabres, he’ll silence critics who believe his previous 30-goal seasons were due solely to playing on John Tavares’ wing with the New York Islanders.

It would also bolster his trade value if the Sabres decide to shop him.

CBC’s Elliotte Friedman noted the Sabres have nine picks in the first two rounds of the 2014 and 2015 drafts. He believes with “Moulson, Ryan Miller and Steve Ott potentially in play” they could land even more.

GM Darcy Regier also suggested he could use some of those picks to acquire some veteran help for his young players. Don’t expect Regier to pursue ageing vets, but he may be on the look out for players with leadership skills and several productive years still ahead of them.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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