The Toronto Maple Leafs won their preseason game against the Buffalo Sabres 5-3 on Sunday, but a huge line brawl could result in some key suspensions. While Phil Kessel’s understandable-but-violent slashes on John Scott are open to subjectivity, David Clarkson leaving the bench seems primed to garner an automatic 10-game suspension.
The loss is big in ways that are both obvious and a little more subtle.
The obvious: Clarkson, 29, will need to wait quite some time to make his Leafs regular season debut. That 10-game suspension means he wouldn’t play a meaningful game until a road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Oct. 25. His first home game would be the following night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
After the game, Leafs coach Randy Carlyle admitted to reporters that Clarkson made a mistake and “now we pay for it.”
The subtle: Worse yet, a suspension doesn’t take Clarkson’s $5.25 million salary cap hit off the books, as Bill Daly confirmed to Broad Street Hockey.*
The Buds are already in a bind with Cody Franson, and now they’ll need to spend at least the league minimum on another player, as the Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle notes.
With all this, it’s still way too early for Leafs fans to condemn the Clarkson signing, but his instinct to defend his teammates really backs his new franchise deeper into a corner.
In the likely event that the NHL follows through on a suspension, that is.