Tom Wilson of Washington Capitals
(Photo Credit: Alexander Jonesi, All-Pro Reels/ Wikimedia Commons)

The NHL Department of Player Safety dropped the hammer on Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson today, suspending him for six games after his dangerous high-sticking incident against Toronto Maple Leafs forward Noah Gregor.

The costly penalty occurred late in the third period of the Capitals’ 7-3 loss to the Leafs on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena.

In a video explaining the decision, the league called out Wilson’s actions as “extremely reckless” and “not related to any sort of legitimate hockey action.” The 29-year-old winger drew his stick back before swinging it forcefully into Gregor’s face, an action the NHL deemed “fully under his own control.”

While Wilson asserted in the hearing that he didn’t intend to strike Gregor in the face, the league stated that “the fact remains that Wilson’s stick is drawn back behind him, then swung forcefully and recklessly into his opponent.”

Gregor, who was left with dental damage from the high stick, said Wilson apologized immediately after the hit.

The suspension, which will cost Wilson $161,458 in forfeited salary, marks the sixth of his career and the first since a seven-game ban in 2021 for boarding Boston’s Brandon Carlo. His lengthy disciplinary record, which includes five previous suspensions and three fines totaling $1.4 million, was cited as a factor in the severity of this punishment.

Wilson’s absence deals a significant blow to the Capitals as they cling to fading playoff hopes. The gritty forward has tallied 17 goals and 32 points in 66 games this season.

It’s a huge impact,” lamented Capitals head coach Spencer Carbery. “I don’t need to go into length about what he provides our team from a leadership standpoint, veteran presence standpoint, what he does on the ice. Huge absence in our lineup.”

The Capitals currently sit three points behind the Detroit Red Wings for the final Eastern Conference wild-card spot with 14 games remaining. They’ll have to soldier on without Wilson for nearly half of those, as the winger won’t be eligible to return until an April 4 tilt against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

As Washington fights for its postseason life, the loss of Wilson further depletes a roster already missing key pieces like Anthony Mantha, traded to Vegas at the deadline.

With their playoff aspirations on the ropes, the Caps must quickly regroup and fill the void left by their physical, emotional leader if they hope to punch their ticket to the dance this spring.