Zac Rinaldo isn’t the first player to expose a flaw in AHL eligibility by-laws, but because of his actions, he should be the last.

Rinaldo was sent down from Boston to the Providence Bruins on February 29 after hitting Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette in the head. The very next day, March 1st, the NHL suspended him for 5 games.

Here’s where things get interesting. Tonight,on March 4th, Zac Rinaldo dressed for Providence against Bridgeport. The best part is he was assessed a match penalty for a hit to the head on Bridgeport defenceman Kane Lafranchise (best.name.ever.)

Now for what could be the most ridiculous rule in player safety history:

“According to the AHL’s by-laws, a player who is under suspension in another league or organization who seeks to play in the AHL while under that suspension will have the relevant disciplinary matter independently reviewed by the President of the American Hockey League, who may in his discretion deem the player ineligible.”

That’s a lot of power, but in too many cases he does not prevent the suspended player from dressing. Even one is too many, but it’s happened quite a bit in the past five years.

Even when the AHL President does deem a player ineligible, the length of time never seems to line up with the suspension length issued by the other league. One of the most famous cases was Kristians Pelss, suspended from the ECHL for 21 games back in December of 2012. After serving four games, the Edmonton Oilers property was reassigned to Oklahoma City in the AHL. The President named his date of eligibility as January 11th. Based on the OC Barons schedule, that meant he’d miss just 13 AHL games. Even if you combine that with the 4 ECHL games already served, it’s only 17 games. IF Pelss had stayed in the ECHL, his 21 games would have been served by January 12th. That’s the only thing I can think of that’s even close to explaining the AHL date of eligibility.

In the case of Rinaldo, his eligibility is all the more frustrating because he reoffended almost immediately, and while still under suspension. If was worried about the safety of my players, I wouldn’t want them playing against someone who was currently convicted and serving time.

It shouldn’t take an injury or repeat offence to close this hole, but hopefully now that there is one, it will encourage the AHL to revisit how it determines eligibility status for otherwise suspended players.

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