Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson has had his 20-game suspension reduced to 14 by a neutral arbitrator and is eligible to play immediately.
Wilson has already served 16 games of his suspension for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis forward Oskar Sundqvist in each team's preseason finale.
The ruling by Shyam Das allows Wilson to return as soon as Tuesday night at Minnesota, and the 24-year-old will recoup $378,049 of the $1.26 million he initially forfeited as part of the suspension.
The 20-game ban handed down by the NHL's department of player safety came after Wilson was suspended three previous times in 13 months.
When asked if he was disappointed it took 43 days to make this decision, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said, "We talked about it going in trying to get a decision earlier, but it seems to be the process the arbitrator needed. The (National Hockey League Players' Association) asked to have it done earlier, but he needed the two weeks to get it done."
Commissioner Gary Bettman upheld Wilson's suspension on appeal before it went to Das, the same arbitrator who earlier this season reduced Nashville forward Austin Watson's domestic violence suspension from 27 games to 18.
Since September 2017, Wilson had been suspended two preseason games for interference against the Blues' Robert Thomas, four games for boarding the Blues' Sammy Blais and three playoff games for an illegal check to the head of the Penguins' Zach Aston-Reese.
"There's certain hits he just has to stop trying," MacLellan said. "Some hits, he's going to have to avoid. They're too risky.
"He's going to have to avoid some hits ... You can have the same force, because he hits hard and it looks bad. Sometimes he's going to be evaluated on the force."
Das wrote in his 42-page opinion that he agreed with the league that Wilson violated Rule 48 with an illegal check to the head and was not persuaded by the Players' Association's arguments that included a suggested eight-game suspension. Das also wrote: "The length of the 20-game suspension imposed was not supported by substantial evidence" and decided on 14 by treating the three-game playoff suspension as six, doubling it given Wilson's recent history and adding two games for Sundqvist's concussion and shoulder injury.
"The league did what they thought was appropriate," Aston-Reese said recently when asked about Wilson's latest suspension. "When the league comes down like that, you've always got to re-think your game. I'm sure he's just doing what he thinks is best for him."
Das is the same neutral arbitrator fired by Major League Baseball in 2012 after he overturned Ryan Braun's drug suspension. The NHL fired arbitrator James Oldham in 2016 after his decision to reduce Dennis Wideman's 20-game suspension to 10 for striking and injuring an official.
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
With files from Canadian Press national hockey writer Joshua Clipperton.
Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press