The NHL and the NHLPA announced on Thursday evening that Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has had his suspension reduced to 18 games by Arbitrator Shyam Das.
The NHL had previously suspended Watson for the first 27 games of the 2018-19 season after he pleaded no-contest to domestic assault charges during the offseason.
At the time of the suspension the NHL called it “unacceptable off-ice conduct.” Watson and the NHLPA appealed the suspension, resulting in Thursday’s reduction. There was no explanation in the brief statement from the league as to why Das decided to reduce the suspension by nine games.
The Predators did release a statement, however.
“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 has already served the first three games and will now be eligible to return to the lineup on Nov. 15 when the Predators visit the Arizona Coyotes.
UPDATE: The NHL released this statement on Friday in response to the arbitrator’s reduction:
“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.”