Auston Matthews' trophy bids just became a touch more interesting.
The NHL's Department of Player Safety swiftly came down on the Maple Leafs star after a brutal cross-check to the head of Rasmus Dahlin in Sunday's Heritage Classic loss to the Buffalo Sabres, assessing a two-game suspension Monday.
Matthews was given only a minor penalty for the vicious blow delivered with five minutes left in Sunday's showcase.
It's a bit of a curious decision given that Matthews has next to no suspension or disciplinary history in parts of six seasons. The NHL's leading goal scorer tried to explain his intent following the game, telling reporters that he was targeting Dahlin's shoulder and that his stick rode up the body and into his head.
Clearly neither Matthews' lack of rap sheet or his reasoning resonated with the NHL, which delivered its punishment with the same sort of force directed at Dahlin.
Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and based on his average annual salary, Matthews will forfeit $116,402.50 US. The money goes to the Players' Emergency Assistance Fund.
Matthews has a six-goal lead over Leon Draisaitl in the Rocket Richard race after notching his 45th early in the outdoor loss to Buffalo. He's also the odds-on favourite to win the Hart Trophy as the league's Most Valuable Player.
Should he win either award, his case will be made in 77 games or less after also missing the first three contests of the season with an injury.
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