The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without their best player for the next two games.
The NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Monday afternoon that the league has suspended Leafs forward Auston Matthews two games for his cross-check to the head of Sabres' defenseman Rasmus Dahlin.
Matthews will forfeit $116,402.50 in salary as a result of the suspension, and is eligible to return to the Leafs' lineup on Saturday when the team takes on the Predators in Nashville.
The incident, which occurred during the third period of Sunday's Heritage Classic between the Maple Leafs and Sabres at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, saw Dahlin and Matthews engaging in a heating shoving match in front of the Buffalo goal that ultimately led to a significant scrum between both teams.
After a few hacks at each other, Matthews went to retaliate at his opponent, cross-checking Dahlin with significant force in the neck area, inciting a brawl.
Both Matthews and Dahlin were given off-setting penalties by the officials, at the time.
"Having just been involved in a shoving match with Dahlin...Matthews aggressively retaliates...," explained the Department of Player Safety in a statement on Monday.
"This is a high, forceful cross-check that makes contact with an opponent’s neck with sufficient force to merit supplemental discipline.”
While the act itself certainly warrants a suspension, it's interesting to see the Department of Player Safety lay down a multi-game sentence on Matthews given the precedent they've set.
Just this past week, for example, Minnesota's Marcus Foligno was handed only a $5,000 fine for hurtling his knee towards Columbus Jakub Voracek at full-speed, after having been suspended for kneeing less than one month prior.
Couple in Matthews' status as a first-time offender, and his nomination for the Lady Byng Trophy last season, which honours the league's most gentlemanly player on the ice, and it's surprising to see Matthews be handed such a harsh penalty. Typically, the league takes those two factors into consideration when ruling on these matters.
The Maple Leafs, who have lost their past two games, will now prepare to face the surging Dallas Stars and Carolina Hurricanes without the likely Rocket Richard winner.