As Robin Lehner watches former teammate Erik Karlsson endure unwanted drama in Ottawa, the Sabres goaltender is reminded that perception goes against players in sports disputes.
"From the team side, it's called business. From our side, it's called loyalty," Lehner said Tuesday. "When it comes to us players, it's called loyalty or not loyal. When it comes to players that have been with a team for a long time that are getting shipped out or traded, it's just business.
Karlsson's loyalty to Ottawa has been questioned this month because of comments he made regarding his next contract. He said he's going to get paid what he's worth following next season, which was interpreted as no "hometown discount" for the Senators.
The resulting backlash included a Sportsnet report that Ottawa was asking all players with modified no-trade clauses for their list of acceptable teams – including Karlsson.
"That's one of the things that's in my contract, and it's just a formality," Karlsson said in KeyBank Center before facing the Sabres. "It's a business. I don't read too much into it.
"Whatever happens, when the decision has to be made, that's something we're going to deal with. The relationship between me and this organization has always been great. That's something that's never been in question and shouldn't be now, either."
Lehner says the Senators' captain is committed to the team that drafted him in 2008.
"I know he loves Ottawa," Lehner said. "The things he's done for that city and how much he cares about that city, I don't see him going anywhere else."
The uncertainty started when Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, whose contract also expires after 2018-19, said he would talk with Karlsson about how best to approach free agency for a big pay day.
"I think the whole thing is just blown out of proportion," Lehner said. "He didn't even start this stuff. Doughty started talking out in L.A., and the only thing Karlsson said was he expects to get paid fairly. That's all that's been said. He's expected to be paid fairly in Ottawa.
"I think Karls' main focus has always been Ottawa, and I'm sure they'll figure it out. It's a long time left."
For now, Karlsson wants to focus on helping Ottawa improve its 9-12-7 record, not what will happen with his contract.
"It's not something I'm thinking about or has been on my mind," the 27-year-old said. "It's this season, tonight's game, and making sure we get out of this slump. That's all I care about."
Buffalo fans got their first look at forward Scott Wilson. Phil Housley has a feeling they'll repeatedly like what they see.
"He plays the game the right way in all aspects," the Sabres' coach said. "He's a terrific forechecker. He finishes all his checks. He goes to the net hard. I think he provides really good energy."
The Sabres acquired Wilson from Detroit on Dec. 4, and the forward played all three games of their road trip. He had one assist, one shot and is plus-2 while skating 14:12 per night. He skated with left wing Jordan Nolan and center Johan Larsson on Tuesday.
"I'll be excited to be in the new home here," Wilson said after the morning skate. "It was kind of nice being on the road a little bit with the guys just to get to know them and get some games under my belt.
"The guys have been awesome, a warm welcome from them so it's been easy for me."
Wilson had family in attendance. His parents and his fiancée's parents drove down from the Toronto area.
Before his 17-game stay with Detroit, Wilson spent five seasons in the Pittsburgh Penguins' organization. He has two Stanley Cups on his résumé and learned a lot watching Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Co. He hopes his new team follows suit.
"Just being in every battle," Wilson said. "Compete level is one thing I learned in Pittsburgh. Even the best players in the world are competing just as hard as you are, so I think just compete and finding that routine that gets you ready to go at the beginning of the game."
The first episode of "Road to the Winter Classic" will air at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday on NBCSN. The four-part series will track the Sabres and New York Rangers as they head toward their New Year's Day game in Citi Field. Episodes will run on four consecutive Wednesdays, with the finale airing Jan. 3.