The NHL announced on Thursday afternoon that Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson‘s 20-game suspension has been upheld by Commissioner Gary Bettman. In a 31-page decision, Bettman said the suspension was warranted. While there was no immediate response from the NHLPA or the Capitals, Wilson can now appeal the suspension to an independent arbitrator within 7 days.
Commissioner Bettman upholds 20-game suspension for Capitals’ Tom Wilson.
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 25, 2018
Wilson, who signed a six-year contract worth $31 million ($5.17 million AAV) with the Capitals on July 27, was ejected from the team’s 5-2 win in their preseason finale against the St. Louis Blues for an illegal check to the head of Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist.
Wilson, 24, met with commissioner Gary Bettman to appeal his suspension last week. The hearing lasted seven hours long with breaks included in that timeframe.
Wilson, along with NHLPA, filed the appeal. Bettman, himself, heard the appeal on behalf of NHL and issued the decision. Wilson can still file an appeal with an independent arbitrator. Two previous cases have made it to independent arbitrators and both had suspension terms ultimately reduced.
On the behalf of Wilson, the NHLPA argued that Wilson didn’t violate any NHL rules and only should’ve gotten a suspension of eight games.
Wilson will be eligible to return on Wednesday, November 21 against the Chicago Blackhawks.
The NHLPA argued that Tom Wilson should have not gotten any games because he didn’t violate Rule 48. But if he did violate it, then it should have just been eight games. @Capitals #NHL pic.twitter.com/k2mD54gOLl
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) October 25, 2018
The decision of the appeal can be found here.
Wilson had a breakout season last year, tallying 14 goals, 35 points, and a +10 rating in 78 games and five goals, 15 points, and a +10 rating in 21 playoff games while playing on the top line with forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.
With Wilson out of the lineup, Capitals’ forward Brett Connolly started the season skating in his spot on the top line with Kuznetsov and Ovechkin. Forward Chandler Stephenson got a few games in on Wilson’s spot but forward Devante Smith-Pelly has been playing there the past two games.
Part of the reason why Wilson was given such a big suspension initially was the frequency of his suspensions. The Department of Player Safety pointed out when they announced the details of the suspension that this was Wilson’s fourth suspension in his past 105 games and second in his past 16.
Wilson played a big role during the Capitals’ Stanley Cup run last season, killing penalties, creating offense, opening up space for his teammates, and setting the tone with his physical play.
By Harrison Brown