Maple Leafs’ Morgan Rielly to appeal five-game suspension

Justin Bourne joins Evanka Osmak and Ken Reid on Sportsnet Central to break down the five-game suspension handed to Toronto Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly, saying the punishment was excessive before explaining how the team can weather his absence.

TORONTO — Morgan Rielly is filing an appeal to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

The Toronto Maple Leafs and its No. 1 defenceman disagree with the five-game suspension handed down Tuesday evening by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for cross-checking Ottawa Senators forward Ridly Greig Saturday, following Greig’s slapshot in the Leafs’ empty net.

Rielly appealed the department’s ruling via the NHL Players’ Association.

Because Rielly’s suspension did not exceed five games, there is only one step in the appeal process.

Bettman rarely does not uphold rulings made by DoPS chief George Parros. He did, however, reduce former Leaf Jason Spezza’s six-game suspension to four games upon appeal, citing Spezza’s long record of clean play.

Reilly has already served one game of his suspension, a 4-1 victory for the Leafs over the St. Louis Blues Tuesday.

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Head coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday night that GM Brad Treliving would address reporters regarding the Rielly suspension Wednesday, but that availability has been put on hold until the appeal process plays out.

Worth a note: In 2013, the San Jose Sharks were fined $100,000 by the NHL after GM Doug Wilson publicly criticized the suspension given to Sharks player Raffi Torres.

Maple Leafs players largely steered clear of the topic of Reilly’s suspension length Wednesday, though the outspoken Ryan Reaves certainly has strong opinions on the matter.

Careful to not cause waves for his teammate’s appeal, Reaves said only: “I hope it goes well.”

Prior to Rielly’s “in-person” hearing (conducted via Zoom due to bad weather in New York), Keefe said Monday that he reviewed suspension-resulting cross-checks over recent years and was surprised to see Rielly’s elevating to the severity of an in-person call.

“But at the same time, there’s a history also of events that happened in Toronto and with the Leafs that get more attention, more hype, that tend to lead to something such as this. So, to that end, not surprised,” said Keefe, who also objected to Jason Spezza’s six-gamer in 2021.

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“We’ve been through a number of others in the past. It seems like we’ve had to prepare for it more so than anybody else in the league, perhaps.”

Rielly has not been made available to reporters, despite requests, since the cross-check.

He skated as a substitute winger in practice Wednesday, as Maple Leafs forwards John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander were all absent due to illness.

“Breaks up this period of time for him with something different,” said Keefe, who didn’t want to practice with 11-and-7. “We’ve chosen to keep him going, keep him on the ice, while we’re uncertain of how his situation is going to play out. But I do think it warrants a discussion in terms of how to manage him going forward here given as much as he plays for us, as much as we’re going to need from him down the stretch.”

No date for Rielly’s appeal has been set.

One-Timers: Ilya Samsonov will start again Thursday versus the Philadelphia Flyers. Bet on Dennis Hildeby to back up. … The Maple Leafs have yet to nail down a return date for Joseph Woll, who says he feels good after two full team practices. … Martin Jones remains day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. He skated on his own Wednesday. … Auston Matthews was given the option to cut practice short due to the extra work he put in over the All-Star break.

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