Vegas will be without its top-line center for three important games.
Chandler Stephenson has been suspended for three games for elbowing Kings defenseman Tobias Bjornfot in Wednesday night’s game against Los Angeles at T-Mobile Arena.
Stephenson was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for the hit, which occurred late in the second period.
It was the first time he had received a major and game misconduct in his NHL career. Vegas was able to kill off the major but lost by a final score of 4-2.
In its video explanation of the ruling, Player Safety states that Stephenson “raises his elbow and uses it to deliver a blow directly to Bjornfot’s head, causing an injury. … While we accept Stephenson’s argument that he did not attempt to hit Bjornfot in the head, … this is a direct and forceful elbow to an opponent’s head, which caused an injury.”
Stephenson had no history of fines or suspensions prior to today’s ruling.
Regardless of intent, there’s no denying that this turned into an unnecessary and dangerous hit.
That being said, the timing of the ruling is noteworthy, as Connor McDavid was slapped with a fine and no suspension for delivering a blatant elbow to the head of Canadiens forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi the night before. He served a two-minute minor for the hit; the $5,000 fine is the maximum amount allowed under the CBA, but it equates to 1/2800 of McDavid’s $14 million salary this season.
Stephenson got a major, game misconduct and three-game suspension with no prior history. He also will forfeit $71,120.70 of his salary.
There has always been inconsistency and a degree of controversy surrounding certain disciplinary decisions by the NHL, especially if star players are involved. But these are separate hits and separate incidents. No matter what, though, this is a tough blow to the Golden Knights., who were already thin down the middle.
Vegas will be without its first-line center for three games, starting tonight against Minnesota as the Knights look to move back into first place in the West Division standings. The next three games are critical ones for Vegas, with two against Minnesota and one against St. Louis.
Stephenson has seven goals and 20 points in 32 games this year.