Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson's 27-game suspension for domestic violence has been reduced to 18 games, the NHL and NHLPA announced in a joint statement on Thursday. The ruling came from Shyam Das, a neutral arbitrator.
Watson pleaded no contest in July to a domestic assault charge. The NHL levied the suspension under Rule 18-A of the collective bargaining agreement for "unacceptable off-ice conduct." The NHLPA filed an appeal on his behalf.
"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," the Predators said in a statement. "As previously stated, our focus has and will continue to be the health and well-being of Austin and his family."
Watson is now eligible to return on Nov. 15 when the Predators visit the Arizona Coyotes.
The NHL released a statement Friday saying it was disappointed by Das' ruling.
"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," the statement read. "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."
Watson, 26, was arrested June 16 in Tennessee. According to a Williamson County court affidavit, a Franklin police officer was flagged down by a witness to a possible domestic situation at a gas station.
Police said Watson told them at the time that he and his girlfriend were having an argument, and he acknowledged that he pushed her. Officers said they found red marks on the woman's chest, and she said Watson had caused them.
The former first-round draft pick scored a career-high 14 goals and had five assists in 76 games last season. He had five goals and three assists in 13 playoff games.
Watson has played in 216 career regular-season games, all with the Predators.