The Department of Player Safety have handed out a punishment, and quite a hefty one at that. Zack Kassian of the Edmonton Oilers has been suspended seven games for kicking Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak last night. As the accompanying video explains:
It is important to note that while we acknowledge Kassian’s argument that he was trying to disentangle himself from the pile of players, that in no way justifies this action. NHL players regularly become entangled with opponents and teammates, and regularly remove themselves from the pile safely and legally, without putting themselves or their opponents at risk of serious injury…
…It is also important to acknowledge the Oilers’ argument that the kick was not forceful. We have always been clear that force is an important consideration for both on-ice officials and our department in assessing penalties or discipline, with more substantial penalties being handed out for more forceful or violent infractions. However we must emphasize that using a skate blade to make intentional or reckless contact with an opponent, regardless of the purpose, is entirely different from a hit that involves a player’s body or stick as there is minimal force required to dangerously cut or injure an opponent.
This is the fourth suspension handed out by the DoPS for Kassian in his NHL career, including one just a month ago when he attacked Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames. That means that Kassian is a repeat offender under the CBA, and will forfeit more than $166K in salary for this seven-game suspension.
It also means there will be absolutely no tolerance for this sort of thing or any other incidents that require supplementary discipline in the future for the Oilers’ winger. After just signing an extension with Edmonton, he’ll have to try and stay out of the DoPS sightline for a while.