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Unvaccinated Columbus Blue Jackets forward Zac Rinaldo won’t play to start season

Mar 24, 2021; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Calgary Flames center Zac Rinaldo (36) moves the puck during the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2021; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Calgary Flames center Zac Rinaldo (36) moves the puck during the second period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Zac Rinaldo, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, will remain under contract with the team but won’t see the ice when the NHL season begins.

Rinaldo cleared waivers on Friday, allowing Columbus to assign him to its AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters. But the Blue Jackets opted not to do so.

“Our position has been very clear that our organization is committed to doing everything we can to ensure the health and safety of our players, coaches, staff and fans,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement. “Given the impact COVID-19 continues to have in our communities, we believe the best course of action given Zac’s vaccination status is to not have him report to Cleveland at this time.

“While we respect an individual’s right to make a personal choice with regards to being vaccinated or not, we have a responsibility to do what we believe is best for our organization. We will honor Zac’s contract, but if he wants to pursue any other opportunities to play this season we will allow him to do so.”

Rinaldo signed a one-year, $750,000 deal with Columbus as a free agent in mid-August.

Due to his vaccination status, Rinaldo was the only player not invited to the Jackets’ training camp. Columbus also let go of former assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre due to his refusal to get vaccinated.

Rinaldo, 31, is a nine-year NHL veteran who played 374 career games for Philadelphia, Boston, Arizona, Nashville and Calgary. He has 18 goals and 42 points.

–Field Level Media