SAN JOSE — The league has come down on Raffi Torres, and come down hard.
On Monday, the NHL announced that the 33-year-old Sharks forward has been suspended for 41 games, or half of the NHL’s 82-game regular season, for hitting Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg with an illegal check to the head on Saturday in the Sharks’ preseason finale. It is the second-longest suspension in NHL history.
In the official explanation video, the NHL Department of Player Safety ruled that the hit was not only illegal in that Silfverberg’s head was the main point of contact, but it was also late and would have been considered interference.
Also a factor is that instead of remaining in a crouched position to deliver the check, Torres rose and drove his shoulder squarely into Silfverberg’s head.
The hit occurred at 12:45 of the first period, and Torres was issued a match penalty for intent to injure on the play. Silfverberg was apparently not hurt.
Although Torres has not been suspended since the 2013 playoffs and is therefore not technically a repeat offender, the league took into account that Torres has played in just 15 games since illegally hitting the Kings’ Jarret Stoll.
According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement: “Players who repeatedly violate league playing rules will be more severely punished for each new violation.”
Torres had been suspended, fined or warned nine times in his career before Saturday. Most recently, he missed the final six games of the Sharks’ first round playoff loss to the Kings after the Stoll play, and prior to that was issued a 21-game ban for a high hit on Chicago’s Marian Hossa in the 2012 playoffs.
Last week, Torres declared himself physically ready to play in the Sharks’ season opener on Wednesday in Los Angeles, likely on the Sharks’ fourth line after two years battling knee issues. Now, San Jose will start the season with some combination of Chris Tierney, Mike Brown, Barclay Goodrow and Ben Smith on that line.
Torres, who missed the entirety of the 2014-15 season with recurring right knee surgeries, will be eligible to return on Jan. 14 vs. Edmonton. A pending unrestricted free agent in the last year of a three-year contract with San Jose, Torres will forfeit $440,860.29 in salary.
The Sharks had no immediate comment on the suspension, although it is likely they will appeal. There is also the possibility that Torres has played his last game with the Sharks, as the 23-man roster deadline is not until Tuesday. The club may have options to cut bait with the controversial winger if it so chooses, although there would likely be salary cap implications. Torres is due $2 million this season.