Montreal Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher was suspended five games for an illegal check to the head of New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech, the department of player safety announced Friday.
The incident occurred during Thursday’s game at 8:08 of the third period. Gallagher was assessed a match penalty and ejected from the game.
Gallagher will forfeit nearly $170,000 in salary under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher has been suspended for five games for an illegal check to the head on NY Islanders’ Adam Pelech. https://t.co/lTIr7dmf83
— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) January 26, 2024
What this means for Gallagher
Though Gallagher has never been suspended before, this hit merited a significant suspension, and for a first-time offender, this is significant. Gallagher has a long history of playing hard, and being difficult to play against, but this crossed a line he had never quite crossed before.
The problem for the Canadiens is while the hit itself was out of character, the timing and situation of the hit have been a recurring theme for him this season, costly penalties late in games that prevent the Canadiens from winning. Yes, the Canadiens wound up winning this game, but Gallagher nearly cost them the win. At this stage of his career, Gallagher needs to be someone the young Canadiens look up to in terms of how a professional behaves in certain situations. Late in a game, your team is up two goals coming off three straight bad losses and on a night Patrick Roy is behind the opposing bench, a veteran leader simply can’t do this, let alone do it multiple times in the same season.
The Canadiens will miss him, but shouldn’t suffer too much on the ice due to Gallagher’s absence, which is kind of the point. His biggest value right now is as a veteran leader, and this is simply not how a veteran leader behaves. — Arpon Basu, NHL senior writer
Significance of Islanders possibly losing Pelech to injury
Pelech just returned from a 23-game absence due to a wrist injury and he also missed 21 games last season due to a concussion suffered on a legal hit by Robert Bortuzzo. If he’s concussed again, as it appeared on the ice on Thursday, this could be another lengthy absence for one of the Islanders’ most important defensemen.
Which means even if Gallagher had the book thrown at him by Player Safety, it’s relatively immaterial to the Islanders. The Canadiens are likely headed to the draft lottery; the Islanders could very well join them, especially if Pelech is sidelined for a long stretch.
Lou Lamoriello could use Pelech’s $5.75 million cap hit to find a replacement if he thinks the Islanders could still be a playoff team — he felt that way last weekend when he fired Lane Lambert and hired Patrick Roy — but there aren’t many top-four defensemen readily available before the March 8 deadline. — Arthur Staple, NHL senior writer
(Photo: David Kirouac / USA Today)