The arbitrator has made a decision in Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson’s appeal of his 27-game suspension, and has reduced it to cover the first 18 games of this season. Watson has already sat three games this year, and will now be eligible to return on November 15th against the Arizona Coyotes. The Predators have issued a statement following the decision:
Our organization was not involved in the appeal of Austin Watson’s 27-game suspension, but we are aware of its reduction to 18 games. As previously stated, our focus has and will continue to be the health and well-being of Austin and his family.
Watson was suspended earlier this offseason following his no-contest plea for domestic assault in July. The arbitrator in this case was Shyam Das, who came to some notoriety in sports circles after overturning Ryan Braun’s 50-game MLB suspension and then subsequently being fired by the league. The decision from the arbitrator in this case cannot be overturned by the league, however on Friday they did release this statement:
We have reviewed Arbitrator Shyam Das’ opinion in the NHLPA’s appeal of Austin Watson’s suspension for domestic assault which reduced the League-imposed suspension of 27 games to 18 games. We are disappointed with the Arbitrator’s decision. We firmly believe that the right of appeal to an arbitrator of League discipline was never intended to substitute the arbitrator’s judgment for that of the Commissioner, particularly on matters of important League policy and the articulation of acceptable standards of conduct for individuals involved in the National Hockey League.
The NHL remains committed to continuing to do what we believe is right. And, in this regard, we intend to continue our steadfast efforts to ensure everyone in our League is adequately educated and sensitized to the importance of this serious social issue. We will not hesitate to adhere to and enforce–through firm discipline as necessary–the standards of personal conduct we feel are appropriate for our League.
Though very different situations, this reduction may play into a potential neutral arbitration for suspended Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson. Wilson will first have Gary Bettman hear his appeal, but can then move to a neutral arbitrator to try and have it reduced. The Watson reduction does by no means mean a reduction for Wislon is guaranteed, but it could be used during the process.