Ottawa Senators forward Austin Watson will not face supplemental discipline from the NHL Department of Player Safety for a hit to the head area he made on New York Rangers forward Tyler Motte last night, according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
The hit, which led to Watson receiving a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct, came in the first period of last night’s game. Watson appeared to hit Motte, who was his teammate just a few weeks ago, in the head area with a rising check, one that seemed to include an elbow making contact with Motte’s upper body.
A replay review by officials showed that Watson’s primary point of contact was with Motte’s chin, which is what led to Watson being ejected from the game. ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski reports that the Department of Player Safety determined that the hit “didn’t rise to Illegal Check to the Head,” that it was more of a “North/south hit through the body with unavoidable head contact.”
Motte did not return to the eventual Senators victory, and worth noting is the fact that Motte was knocked out for some time last season with an upper-body injury. He could miss some time now with the upper-body injury he suffered due to the hit, although no firm timeline has yet been released.
Motte, 27, was recently acquired from the Senators and has played six games for the Rangers this year.
Should he miss extended time, the Rangers will be pressed into an even more precarious situation, having already been forced to play with eleven forwards and five defensemen for cap-related reasons.
For the Senators, Watson escaping punishment from the NHL for this hit could help them as they look to make a push for a playoff spot. Watson was suspended last year for a high hit on Boston Bruins defenseman Jack Ahcan, meaning were he going to face discipline again he would be considered a repeat offender.
Now, though, despite the apparent severity of Watson’s hit on Motte, Watson will be able to remain in the Senators’ lineup for their Saturday game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It appears that the league has decided that the five-minute-major and match penalty is sufficient punishment for Watson, which is not fully out of line with some of their past decisions.
For the Rangers, this decision could come as another point of anger for the team against the NHL Department of Player Safety, especially with their own player, K’Andre Miller, currently serving a suspension.
It was just two years ago that the Rangers’ officially and publicly called for the firing of former NHL enforcer George Parros, the current head of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. In a statement, they called him “unfit to continue in his current role” and his choice to not suspend Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson “a dereliction of duty” that seemed to permit what they called a “horrifying act of violence.”
While today’s choice to not levy additional punishment on Watson won’t to draw the same level of ire from the Rangers and the New York market, they’re unlikely to be thrilled to see Watson walk away unscathed while one of their players faces a possible extended absence.
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