After a seven-game homestand, the Vancouver Canucks will be heading south of the border for a three-game road trip. One player, however, won’t be joining them and it’s for a very obvious reason.
Defenceman Travis Hamonic has been sent down to the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL. In his place, the Canucks have called up Jack Rathbone.
It seems very clear that Hamonic has been sent down because he’s not yet considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. According to the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol, “Unvaccinated Individuals may not be allowed to travel across the Canadian-US border or may be required to quarantine.”
“He’ll be double vaccinated soon and we’re following the protocols,” said head coach Travis Green when Hamonic first joined the team at the beginning of November.
In order to be considered fully vaccinated, an NHL player must have had two weeks pass since receiving their second dose of an approved vaccine. Since Hamonic is not travelling with the team, it seems clear that he received his second dose less than two weeks ago. In fact, it's entirely unclear whether Hamonic has even received his second dose yet or whether he has only received one dose and must wait for his second dose. The Canucks have not been forthcoming on this issue.
Even without the NHL's protocol, Hamonic would still need to quarantine for 14 days in Canada after returning from the U.S. as an unvaccinated traveller. That would mean missing four Canucks home games and then the Canucks would be back on the road in the U.S. again. This way, Hamonic misses fewer games.
Under the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 season, the Canucks have the right to suspend Hamonic for any games he is unable to play due to being unvaccinated and he would forfeit his pay for those games. Instead, the Canucks are working with their AHL affiliate to keep Hamonic playing and avoid a suspension.
Conveniently, the Abbotsford Canucks will be playing two home games while the Vancouver Canucks are in the U.S. on their road trip. So, while Hamonic will miss three NHL games, he’ll be able to continue playing and training, an important element considering he missed all of training camp and the preseason.
Since Hamonic went unclaimed on waivers 30 days ago, he does not need to clear waivers again. Players do not need to go back on waivers as long as no more than 30 days have passed or a player has appeared in 10 NHL games. The timing works out quite well for the Canucks.
The upside for the Canucks is that they get Jack Rathbone back on the roster after two games in the AHL.
Rathbone had a strong preseason and earned his way onto the Canucks’ roster and into the lineup but had some shaky moments to start the season. With Abbotsford, Rathbone played big minutes, including the top units of both sides of special teams, and he could get a shot at playing on the penalty kill with Vancouver given their struggles.
Rathbone had one assist in his two games with Abbotsford and the Canucks should welcome his puck-moving ability back into the lineup, given their paucity of puck-moving from the back end.
The question is whether Rathbone will be able to make his spot in the lineup a permanent one in his second go-around this season. When the road trip ends, the Canucks could call Hamonic back up to the NHL and send Rathbone back down. Since Rathbone is the only defenceman on the roster who is exempt from waivers, he’s the easiest player to send to Abbotsford as any other defenceman could get claimed and take a bite out of the Canucks’ already shallow defensive depth.
In order to stay on the roster when Hamonic returns, Rathbone will have to make himself indispensable, which means proving himself reliable at 5-on-5 and providing extra value on at least one side of special teams. Rathbone has the skillset to do exactly that but it’s a matter of execution.
If Rathbone can help the Canucks transition game and provide a spark on offence, he’ll make it a lot harder to take him out of the lineup.