Updates on Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner and Dmitry Kulikov, plus the latest Sabres speculation.

TORONTO STAR: Damien Cox reports there still haven’t been serious contract talks between the Maple Leafs and Dion Phaneuf but neither side seems too bothered. Though acknowledging finding “number and term” could be tricky, Cox expects the Leafs will make an offer to keep him.

Could Jake Gardiner be moved at the trade deadline?

Could Jake Gardiner be moved at the trade deadline?

SPORTSNET.CA: Nick Kypreos believes the play of Leafs rookie defenseman Morgan Reilly could push Jake Gardiner onto the trade block closer to the March 5 trade deadline, though the asking price could be steep.

TORONTO SUN: Terry Koshan reports the early season trade rumors which has swirled around Gardiner have died down. The blueliner is focusing on regaining the form which impressed the Leafs and their fans during the club’s playoff series last spring against Boston.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I predict the Leafs will not only re-sign Phaneuf, but they’ll ink him to pretty much the same annual salary ($6.5 million) he’s making now, which won’t impress their critics. As for Gardiner and Reilly, it’s a long season, which could certainly work in Gardiner’s favor. Then again, if Gardiner does improve but so does Reilly, it could enhance the former’s trade value by deadline day.

SUN-SENTINEL.COM’s Harvey Fialkov reports the following via Twitter: “Kulikov to Leafs trade rumors eminated (sic) from Toronto Sun. So early for these rumors. Panthers are easy target bec of good young players.”

NHL LIVE (VIA KUKLA’S KORNER): TSN insider Darren Dreger reports it appears Buffalo Sabres owner Terry Pegula appears to still be on side with GM Darcy Regier in their rebuilding process. Dreger also claimed the Sabres were telling rival clubs during the summer not to call them about Thomas Vanek or Ryan Miller (both pending UFAs) until “around Christmas” as they wanted time to assess their roster.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Even if the Sabres tried to move Vanek and Miller now, they won’t find much of a market because their hefty salaries for this season are very difficult for rival clubs to absorb at this point.  23 teams have cap space of $5 million or less, which doesn’t leave much of a trade market.Sure, the Sabres could agree to absorb part of their salaries, but I think they’d prefer to wait until mid-season and then start gauging the market value of both players.