Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson filed an appeal to a neutral arbitrator after NHL commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Wilson’s 20-game suspension for his hit on St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist in the Capitals’ preseason finale on September 30 on Thursday. The appeal with the arbitrator will take place on Wednesday.
Wilson’s hearing with Bettman last Thursday took seven hours with breaks.
Capitals forward Tom Wilson has filed an appeal to a neutral arbitrator. Shyam Das will hear it on Oct. 31.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) October 26, 2018
The appeal will take place with arbitrator Shyam Das.
Wilson, who signed a six-year contract worth $31 million ($5.17 million AAV) with the Capitals on July 27, was ejected from the game against the Blues for an illegal check to the head.
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 if the suspension upholds with the arbitrator.
The decision of the appeal can be found here.
Bettman explained that the length of the suspension was appropriate. NHL Department of Player Safety head George Parros explained that the department got to that number by doubling the length of Wilson’s last suspension (three) since it was in the playoffs, multiplied that number by his number of repeat offenses (three), and added two games because of the injury Sundqvist suffered.
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