As expected, the NHL Players’ Association will appeal the suspension of defenseman Slava Voynov that was handed down by the NHL on Tuesday. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun was the first to report than an appeal has been filed and the case will be heard by a neutral arbitrator. A date for the hearing has not yet been announced.
Voynov, 29, was suspended for the entire 2019-20 season and 2020 postseason by the league yesterday for “unacceptable off-ice conduct”, with a conditional date of reinstatement set for July 1st, 2020. Voynov received a lifetime ban from the NHL in 2014 following an incidence of domestic violence and subsequent arrest and conviction, shortly after which he fled to his native Russia. However, the league’s recent decision at least opens the door to a return for the talented blue liner, who spent three years playing abroad in the KHL and sat out the 2018-19 season while awaiting a decision on his NHL reinstatement.
Yet, the league’s leniency was not enough in the eyes of Voynov and the NHLPA. It took only 24 hours for this appeal to be filed as the player’s side tries to shorten the suspension. The NHLPA has had great luck of late in front of an arbitrator; both Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson and Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson had highly-publicized long-term suspensions reduced by arbitrator Shyam Das this season. If Das is to again be the one to hear the case, the odds of a reduction are in Voynov’s favor. While the NHLPA does not necessarily condone the actions of Voynov or any other disciplined players, they have a duty to fight for the players’ rights.
The appeal was also likely supported by the Los Angeles Kings, who still own Voynov’s NHL rights. Whether or not the Western Conference’s last-place teams wants to bring the veteran defender back or instead trade him away, a quicker reinstatement is of value to the Kings. The team has still declined to comment publicly on Voynov’s reinstatement, but have no doubt talked with the player, league, and players’ association throughout this process.