On Wednesday, the National Hockey League announced a ruling following a months-long investigation process involving the Arizona Coyotes and the club’s testing practices. As per the NHL release, the Coyotes will forfeit two upcoming high-end draft selections over the next two entry drafts.
The league announced that Arizona had been illegally testing players prior to the annual draft combine during the 2019-20 season. The ensuing punishment is not based individually, but rather, organizationally. The Coyotes will be without their 2020 second round draft pick, as well as their 2021 first round selection following the investigation. The hefty punishment came alongside explanation from league commissioner Gary Bettman.
“While the Combine Testing Policy Memoranda reference a fine of ‘no less than $250,000 for each violation’ of the Policy, I exercise my discretion to impose the aforementioned discipline — which I consider to be more appropriate given the specific circumstances of this case,” Bettman said.
“As for the Club personnel who participated in, or may have contributed to, the Club’s violation of the Policy, I have decided that no discipline shall be imposed on these individuals,” he added. “While I conclude that certain Club personnel acted in a grossly negligent manner at best, which was conceded by the Club, I ultimately conclude that the record does not establish — to a standard with which I am comfortable — that those individuals engaged in intentional wrongdoing, as opposed to grossly negligent behaviour.”
The ‘grossly negligent behaviour’ exhibited by Arizona will come back to bite the Coyotes down the road, as the results of Wednesday’s sanctions from the league have Arizona currently without first, second or third round selection in this year’s draft, while now also going without a first and a third in 2021. If they happen to re-sign pending free agent forward Taylor Hall, they will also lose their 2021 second round pick.
Arizona responded to the league’s announcement Wednesday afternoon, following the investigation that began in January of 2020.
“We were advised today of the NHL’s ruling regarding the allegations of physical fitness testing of draft prospects and respect the League’s ruling,” the statement read. “Under new leadership, we have added thorough internal controls and compliance measures to prevent this type of occurrence from happening again in the future. We will have no further comment.”
Making muddy waters even murkier, the Coyotes and former general manager John Chayka parted ways on July 24, 2020, in what was detailed as a one-sided decision, on the part of Chayka.
“The Club is disappointed in his actions and his timing, as the Coyotes prepare to enter the NHL’s hub city of Edmonton, where the team will begin postseason play for the first time since 2012,” Arizona wrote in a press release. “Chayka has chosen to quit on a strong and competitive team, a dedicated staff, and the Arizona Coyotes fans, the greatest fans in the NHL,” said the Coyotes, who named assistant GM Steve Sullivan as interim GM.”
Chayka indicated that it was a personal family choice to walk away from the team, but the true intentions may never be known.
“The past four years have been the most enjoyable of my life,” Chayka wrote in a statement. “In Arizona, I became a husband and a father, while working as hard as possible to make the Coyotes a Stanley Cup contender. I love our players, coaches, staff and fans and I very much wish I could be with the team in Edmonton. Sadly, the situation created by ownership made that an impossibility. That’s all I intend to say on this matter for now.”
Yeah, things are weird in the desert.