Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cross Checks [Print without images]

Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Rumblings: Wrinkles in Isles-Sabres trade

By Pierre LeBrun

More wrinkles emerged Tuesday from the Thomas Vanek-Matt Moulson blockbuster trade.

As I tweeted on Tuesday afternoon, the first-round pick the Islanders sent the Sabres has a condition attached to it: If that pick is in the top 10 come June, the Isles have the option to defer the pick to 2015.

It’s an insurance policy of sorts for the Islanders.

The Sabres are guaranteed a first-round pick either way, though.

It will be an interesting choice for Isles GM Garth Snow: Does he defer to 2015 thinking that pick won’t be as good, showing confidence that his team can continue to grow into a better squad; or does he risk giving away the potential first overall pick in the draft involving phenom Connor McDavid?

I don’t think the Islanders are in any danger of being a lottery team anytime soon as they’ve been for many years, but with injuries in today’s NHL, one never knows.

Personally, I’m not sure I’d ever trade a first-round pick in 2015 given that it’s McDavid’s draft year. You’re talking about the kid most scouts say is the next Sidney Crosby.

Another detail from the Vanek deal reported first by my TSN colleague Bob McKenzie: the Sabres are eating about $1.4 million of Vanek’s salary in the trade.

All of this makes the deal more understandable from the Islanders’ point of view, but still a good haul for Sabres GM Darcy Regier, as well.

"He’s going to get a first-rounder for Moulson for sure in March," an NHL team executive said on Tuesday. "It’s great value."

PHANEUF TALKS
Very preliminary talks are under way between the Maple Leafs and Dion Phaneuf’s camp, but no numbers have been exchanged yet, a source told ESPN.com on Tuesday.

Phaneuf will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and is currently earning $6.5 million a year.

Anything north of $7 million a year, I would think, would be too rich for the Leafs. But we shall see ...

STARS' BLUE-LINE FUTURE
The No. 1 focus in Dallas over the course of time will be turning over their blue-line corps. While I hear that GM Jim Nill has called around the league to see what’s out there, the noticeable change will likely come from within when younger players are ready to be promoted.

Jamie Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka and Patrik Nemeth are continuing their AHL development, but I suspect (whether it’s via injuries to the NHL club or simply second-half call-ups) you’re going to see at least one of them before the end of the season. John Klingberg went back to Sweden to play this season, but he’s another player who will likely get a crack at the NHL roster next season.

Getting rid of some of the current Stars blue-liners won’t be easy, if at all doable. Alex Goligoski had a brutal start to the season, but with two more years on his deal after this season at a $4.6 million cap hit, it's hard to see which team would take that.

VRBATA'S FUTURE
Coyotes leading scorer Radim Vrbata, who entered Tuesday night’s game with 12 points (5-7) in 12 games, is an unrestricted free agent after the season.

The Coyotes held talks with his camp before the season but nothing materialized and the player indicated he wanted to shelve things for now to focus on hockey.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the Coyotes won’t circle back before the end of the season to see what it would take to get him to re-sign. He’s in the final season of a three-year deal that paid him $3 million per season.