So if you think the Sabres have issues deciding what to do about Evander Kane, just wait until you ponder the next few months in Ottawa and Los Angeles.
Franchise defensemen Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty are free agents following the 2018-19 season and both admitted last week that what's going to happen after next season is already on their minds during this one.
The problem with their Norris Trophy winners is particularly thorny for both teams. If they can't reach deals on extensions this summer, the Senators and Kings will have to consider trading their No. 1 defensemen rather than risk losing them for nothing in July, 2019.
"When I go to market, I’m going to get what I’m worth, and it’s going to be no less, no matter where I’m going,” Karlsson told Ottawa reporters Thursday in Brooklyn. “That’s the business part of it. That’s the way every player has been treated ever since this league has started, and I think the players have been a little bit on the other side of things when it comes to negotiations. I think it’s time to realize that when we go to the table, it’s business on both parts."
Both players are 27. Karlsson is currently on a six-year, $45.5 million contract while Doughty's current deal is eight years, $56 million. You would think both players would be in line to get $10 million per season, and maybe more, on a new deal.
The NHL's top cap hit for a defenseman is currently Nashville's P.K. Subban at $9 million per season. Doughty told The Athletic last week both players should go well above that figure and added he plans to talk to Karlsson and inquire about how they should be attacking their respective negotiations. The Senators will be in Los Angeles on Thursday night.
"I know I’m going to talk to Karlsson back and forth, kind of see what money he’s looking for. I’ll kind of look at what money I’m looking for,” Doughty said. “I don’t know if he’s going to re-sign with Ottawa, I don’t know if I’ll re-sign with L.A. You just never know what’s going to happen."
“We’re in a fairly similar boat, and again, when it comes down to it, I’m sure we’re going to have discussions about what we’re thinking and what we’re going to do," Karlsson said. "It’s a business that we’re in and we need to get treated like we’re a business, and we’re going to treat everybody else like it’s a business, too.”
Still, Karlsson made it clear that he's enjoyed his time in Ottawa and is very comfortable there.
"I’ve been here my whole career. It’s something that I invested all my time in and something I would like to see all the way through," he said. "But at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, if it’s not the right fit and it’s not going to work out business-wise, then you’re going to have to look elsewhere because that’s what they are going to do, as well.”
Doughty, however, would appear to be more likely to stay put with an organization that he's won two Stanley Cups with. Still, the spectre of Toronto looms large. Doughty is an Ontario native, from London, and played under Leafs coach Mike Babcock at the Olympics.
"Growing up, watching them every single time, it’s hard to say you’d never want to play for the Leafs,” Doughty said. "He’s put full trust in me since I was 19 years old at the Olympics. I remember, I’ll never forget."
Pominville family gets NBCSN spotlight
For its first big off-ice foray in Sabreland, the NBCSN "Road to the Winter Classic" cameras went to Jason Pominville's Clarence home. Pominville, who celebrated his 35th birthday on Thursday, is the only player who was on the ice for the Sabres during the 2008 Winter classic and will be playing for them Jan. 1 in Citi Field against the Rangers.
"It was cool. They saw my kids after school. Five or six guys came, a great group," Pominville said. "They make it easy, make it comfortable. They do a good job on their shows. It was simple. My wife and I playing with the kids and doing regular stuff at home. They just filmed."
Pominville laughed at the buildup surrounding the Winter Classic now compared to 10 years ago, when people openly wondered if it would be a one-shot NHL gimmick.
"We didn't have everything that goes with this game now," he said. "Players at a press conference in the summer, a TV show, all those things. The leadup is amazing now and creates that special feeling for the fans and lets them see another unique side of the players.
"For me as a player, I've always enjoyed watching these TV shows they do. I always watch them to see what other guys do off the ice, see how other teams prepare and learn more about that side. It's a pretty unique opportunity for everyone."
More on the cameras
The Penguins know all about having reality shows following them around. They were in the 2011 Winter Classic against Washington, the first time the league did such a documentary, and have been regular subjects in the playoffs over the last two springs as the NHL has produced a show called "NHL All-Access: Road to the Stanley Cup"
"They've done it enough. They're pretty good and you get used to having them around," Pens captain Sidney Crosby told this corner when asked about the crews here Friday. "It's hard to think you would be used to it but they're great guys to work with. It's just something that becomes part of your daily routine.
"Maybe you never get completely used to having a camera there all the time but if there's ever a time you will, it's when you have them for a month every day."
Coach Mike Sullivan said the reality of professional sports today is behind-the-scenes shows are becoming hot properties, especially as teams play in special events or move deeper into their playoffs.
"What we tried to do was put some parameters around it so we could find some common ground between the people that were filming and our hockey team in the dressing room," Sullivan said. "My experience is this isn't anything that's going away. It's part of professional sports. It's going to continue to be a part of it. So you might as well embrace it and make sure it doesn't become a distraction."
Pens have special Hall days
The Penguins visited the Hockey Hall of Fame Wednesday to officially donate one of their Stanley Cup rings, take a private tour and have a team dinner -- with the Cup at the table, of course.
The team stayed in Toronto Thursday to visit the Hall's private archives in the Mastercard Centre, the Maple Leafs' practice facility in Etobicoke. They then practiced there before coming to Buffalo.
Once the championship banner is raised on opening night the following season, the Cup run is officially put to bed. But the Penguins' back-to-back titles, a first in the NHL since the 1997-98 Red Wings, have a special feel and the trip to the Hall gave players another glimpse into the team's place in hockey history.
"There are those short little windows like that," defenseman Ian Cole said here Friday. "The best way to approach it is to forget that it happened and approach each season as its own individual entities. But there are these areas like the Hall of Fame dinner where you can reflect and think, 'Boy that was really special' and then you focus again and try to get a win in Buffalo."
Vasi has Bolts' back in net
The Lightning may be suddenly struggling to score but there's no question they've answered the question about whether Andrei Vasilevskiy can be the replacement for Ben Bishop in goal.
Vasilevskiy entered the weekend leading the league in wins (16) while carrying a 2.23 goals-against average. With a .932 save percentage. he's second in the league among goalies who have played at least 10 games.
"I don't if there's anything we've learned, it's just that it's been validated," coach Jon Cooper said when the Lightning was in town last week. "Can Vasilevskiy be a No. 1 in this league? We've always thought that. Now this is the year. Let's see what he can do and he's proven he can do it. It's really validation for [general manager] Steve Yzerman and our scouts."
Around the boards
* Scoring is up 12.4 percent this year, cracking six goals per game and reaching the highest level since the 2005 lockout. Entering the weekend, there had been 16 games of 7-plus goals by a team and 23 hat tricks, the most since 1997. The slashing crackdown is a key element, creating more power plays and more man-advantage goals.
So when does that memo about scoring more and, in particular, converting on more power plays reach Buffalo? Must have gotten lost in the mail.
* The heat is really up in Philadelphia, where fans were chanting "Fi-re, Hak-stol" as coach Dave Hakstol's team finished November on an ugly 0-4-5 run that included six one-goal losses, four on overtime goals.
GM Ron Hextall has continuously supported Hakstol but things get no easier in December. After Saturday's home matinee against Boston, the Flyers head West for games in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver before returning home to host Toronto on Dec. 12. The Sabres are in Philly on Dec. 14.
* Manitoba Moose forward Jack Roslovic was named AHL Player of the Month for November after collecting eight goals and 11 assists along with a plus-13 rating in 14 games. He was drafted 25th overall in 2015 with the pick sent by the Sabres to the Jets as part of the Evander Kane/Zach Bogosian trade.
Dylan Strome, taken third in that draft behind Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, was named AHL Rookie of the Month after collecting 16 points in nine games for Tucson. He was called up by the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday.