Coyotes forfeit two draft picks for combine testing violations

The Arizona Coyotes will forfeit their 2020 second-round pick and 2021 first-round pick for violating the NHL's combine testing policy, the league announced Wednesday.

The punishment was determined by commissioner Gary Bettman, who held an Aug. 6 hearing that included testimony from Coyotes and NHL representatives.

The Coyotes were accused of conducting illegal pre-draft testing for more than 20 prospects from the Canadian Hockey League. According to sources, CHL teams accused the Coyotes of putting draft-eligible prospects through physical tests, which is not allowed before the NHL scouting combine.

Rules stipulate that the NHL could impose a fine of "no less than $250,000 for each violation," but Bettman did not implement any financial punishment.

"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 in a statement.

The commissioner also decided not to punish any Coyotes employees who "participated in, or may have contributed to" the violations.

"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 behavior," Bettman said in a statement.

John Chayka was the Coyotes' general manager when these violations took place. He parted ways with the team in July for unrelated reasons. Assistant GM Steve Sullivan has been promoted to GM in an interim role.

"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 Coyotes said Wednesday in a statement. "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."

In June, Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo said in a video conference that the team was cooperating with the NHL during the investigation, but he didn't believe the penalties would be too harsh.

"We're dealing with it, we've been extremely cooperative and when we have more information, we'll let you know," Meruelo said at the time. "I don't think it's going to be substantial."

The Coyotes were eliminated by the Colorado Avalanche in this summer's tournament and face a crucial offseason. The team is hoping to re-sign winger Taylor Hall, though doing so would force them to give up a second- or third-round pick in the 2021 draft to the New Jersey Devils. The Coyotes already traded their 2020 first-round pick to the Devils to acquire Hall this season.