Tom Wilson is back.
A neutral arbitrator has ruled that Wilson’s suspension — originally a 20-game ban for his latest hit to the head of an opponent — has been reduced to 14 games and that he is immediately eligible return to the Washington Capitals’ lineup.
The Capitals are in Minnesota on Tuesday night to play the Wild, and it is expected that Wilson will be in the lineup.
Since Wilson has already served 16 games of the original suspension due to the length of the appeals process, he will get back two games worth of salary — just a little more than $378,000.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety initially suspended Wilson 20 games for a preseason hit on St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. It wasn’t the hit itself that was worth 20 games, but the fact that it was the fourth time in less than a calendar year he had been suspended for such a play, something the DoPS argued was an unprecedented run of discipline.
Wilson initially appealed the ruling to the NHL, but it was upheld by commissioner Gary Bettman.
At that point Wilson was eligible to appeal to a neutral arbitrator.
[Related: Wilson suspended for 20 games]
That neutral arbitrator — Shyam Das — is the same one that reduced the 27-game suspension for Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson after he pleaded no contest to domestic assault charges during the offseason. Das reduced that suspension to 18 games.
Das was was previously a neutral arbitrator for Major League Baseball but was fired by the league in 2012 after overturning Ryan Braun’s suspension.
In this case Das ruled that Wilson violated Rule 48 and illegally hit Sundqvist in the head, but he did not support the Department’s reasoning for a 20-game suspension. In reaching his conclusion for 14 games, Das took Wilson’s previous suspension (a three-game playoff ban for a hit to the head of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese) and doubled it to six games because it was a playoff suspension (one playoff game is considered two regular season games in the eyes of the league), then doubled the six games because of Wilson’s status as a repeat offender. He then added two games to account for Sundqvist’s injury.
Parros and the NHL’s DoPS had tripled the value of his postseason suspension to arrive at the original 20-game ban.
Wilson’s run of supplemental discipline started last preseason when he was given a two-game suspension (both preseason games) for a hit to the head of Blues forward Robert Thomas.
In his first game back from that suspension (another preseason game against the Blues) he earned a four-game regular season suspension for boarding Samuel Blias.
His third suspension, the three-game playoff game, came 87 games after the Blias suspension.
He played in only 15 games before the hit on Sundqvist.
Overall, it is four suspensions for Wilson in a span of 105 games played, and that does not include several borderline hits in the playoffs (Alexander Wennberg, Brian Dumoulin, and Jonathan Marchessault) that received additional scrutiny but ultimately did not rise to the level of league discipline.