When the Coyotes sent a package of picks and prospects to the Devils for Taylor Hall in December, they hoped they were getting ahead of the trade deadline frenzy and could focus on a push to the playoffs. And while they defeated the Preds in the qualifiers, they lasted just five games in the postseason to the Avs.
On Wednesday, Arizona was punished for trying to get ahead of it all yet again. This time for the physical evaluations of 2020 draft-eligible players, a violation of the league’s Combine Testing Policy. The Coyotes will forfeit their 2020 second round pick and their 2021 first round pick.
The investigation began earlier this year after allegations emerged that club personnel had tested and evaluated players eligible for selection in the postponed 2020 Entry Draft. In a hearing earlier this month with NHL Commissioner, Gary Bettman, the team acknowledged that they violated the league’s policy.
“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.
The commissioner also announced that no further sanctions would be placed on team personnel who may have participated in the violation.
“While I conclude that certain Club personnel acted in a grossly negligent manner at best, which was conceded by the Club,” he said. “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 behavior.”
The sanctions are imposed under Article 6.3 of the NHL, which allows fines for actions that are deemed to be detrimental to the League or game of hockey.
In a statement the Coyotes vowed that they have taken steps to avoid this from happening again.
“Under new leadership, we have added thorough internal controls and compliance measures to prevent this type of occurrence from happening again in the future.”
Though it was not a reported factor in the decision, the issue became even more of a league-wide talking point when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo.
For Arizona, the loss of picks is a difficult blow to an organization that’s had some troubling times as of late. General manager, John Chakya left the organization in July after reportedly interviewing for a position outside the club. The ownership group, which signed Chayka to an extension earlier this season, pushed back when the 30-year-old approached the team about departing. Steve Sullivan was promoted from assistant general manger to interim GM, but a full search for the next GM is currently underway.
The pair of picks surrendered is an even tougher medicine given the club sent away their first round pick in the 2020 Draft to New Jersey for Hall and a third rounder to Colorado for Carl Soderberg. The club’s first pick in a much-anticipated draft won’t come until the fourth round. The loss of a first in 2021 will also not be solo as the club owes another pick to the Devils from the Hall deal–a second, if Hall signs an extension with the club. If not, it will be a third round pick.