The Suspension

The Department of Player Safety has suspended Morgan Rielly 5 games for cross-checking Ridly Greig in the face on Saturday night. Reacting to Greig’s slapshot into the empty net that capped off a disappointing loss for the Leafs, Rielly responded with a vicious cross-check. This is Rielly’s first suspension in his 769-game career.

For Leafs fans, this incident is reminiscent of Nazem Kadri’s cross-check against Jake Debrusk in game two of the Leafs 2019 series against the Bruins. Kadri, a repeat offender, was suspended for the rest of the first-round series, which ended up being five playoff games. In both cases, you could argue the Leafs player was right to respond to the incident, but both players crossed the line with cross-checks to the face. Luckily for the Leafs, Rielly’s infraction came at a much less crucial time in the season.

The Leafs’ defenseman will be eligible to return to the lineup on February 22nd against the Vegas Golden Knights.

How will the Leafs replace Rielly?

With Connor Timmins battling mono, Jake McCabe will get a chance on the Leafs’ top powerplay unit in Rielly’s absence. Regarding the Leafs pairings, Sheldon Keefe will have to shuffle the deck to find the right mix. Liljegren should get a chance in the top four, perhaps paired with T.J. Brodie to keep the effective McCabe-Beniot pairing together. That option would look like this:

Brodie – Liljegren

McCabe – Benoit

Lagesson – Giordano

Another option could be to slide Brodie down to pair with Benoit, giving Liljegren a chance with McCabe.

McCabe – Liljegren

Brodie – Benoit

Lagesson – Giordano

Morgan Rielly Suspended For Cross-Checking

Max Lajoie will be the next man up for the Leafs in case of injury, suspension or poor performance. Regardless of the configuration, Sheldon Keefe will have the opportunity to see some of his depth defensemen take on expanded roles in the next 5 games.