The Columbus Blue Jackets have announced that forward Zac Rinaldo, who has chosen not to be vaccinated against COVID-19, will remain under contract but will not play for them or for their AHL affiliate to start the season.
Rinaldo, 31, signed a one-year, $ 750,000 free agent contract with the Jackets during the offseason. But the team did not invite him to training camp last month as the only player on their list not to receive the vaccine.
“We’re going to have 67 players in our camp and they’re all going to be vaccinated,” team president John Davidson said at the time. “Everything we do, we do together as a team.”
The original plan was to send Rinaldo to the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League. But after Rinaldo cleared the waivers on Friday, the team announced he would not be assigned to the AHL.
“Our position has been very clear that our organization is committed to doing everything possible to ensure the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and fans,” said club general manager and deputy governor Jarmo Kekalainen. “Given the impact COVID-19 continues to have in our communities, we believe the best course of action given Zac’s immunization status is to not have him show up in Cleveland at this time.”
The NHL and the NHL Players Association do not have a vaccination mandate for players, but have created protocols that strongly encourage players to get vaccinated. For example, there is no travel exemption for unvaccinated players traveling from the United States to Canada to avoid a 14-day quarantine.
Teams will have the option of suspending without pay unvaccinated players who cannot participate in hockey activities. Rather than suspend Rinaldo, Kekalainen said he simply won’t be playing for the franchise at this time.
“While we respect an individual’s right to make a personal choice about whether or not to be vaccinated, we have a responsibility to do what we think is best for our organization. We will honor Zac’s contract, but if he wants to seize other opportunities to play this season, we will allow him to do so, “said Kekalainen.
Rinaldo, signed to be a deep energy player for the Blue Jackets, has appeared in 374 NHL games in nine seasons.
The Blue Jackets were to be his sixth team.