Mackenzie Blackwood
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Blackwood’s vaxx status is an issue. Now, his COVID test results are, too. 

As it stands now, goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood is the only unvaccinated player on the New Jersey Devils roster.

That’s an important thing to keep in mind when you read the release from the team on Friday morning about him being unavailable for Thursday night’s preseason game.

Blackwood wasn’t able to be active for Thursday’s game against the Islanders as a precaution due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test. Subsequent tests have also come back inconclusive, making him a question mark as we get closer to the start of the regular season.

The final sentence of the Devils’ release about Blackwood’s status is telling.

“Blackwood is the only unvaccinated player on the Devils roster.”

Depth Issues

Blackwood, 24, is entering the second year of a three-year deal with the Devils. He is supposed to be the team’s No. 1 netminder.

This summer the Devils signed veteran backup Jonathan Bernier to two-year deal. The 33-year-old has a cap hit of $4.125 million, more than $1 million more than Blackwood — the supposed starter.

Cory Schneider will hit the Devils’ books for $2 million for three more years after he was bought out by the team, opening the door for Blackwood to take over the top spot on the depth chart.

The only option the Devils have in the minors to fill a backup role behind Bernier if Blackwood misses time (or can’t play in cities where his vaccination status keeps him out of the lineup — like New York) is Scott Wedgewood.

Even for a team that’s a long shot to make the playoffs this year, that isn’t good.

Blackwood is supposed to be entering the prime of his career, but now his vaccination status is putting both him and the organization in a tough spot.

We’ll see if the Devils make a move to add another veteran netminder before opening night.


Tab has written about MLB, the NHL and the NFL for more than a decade for publications including The Fourth Period, Bleacher Report and La Vida Baseball. He is the author of two books about the Chicago Blackhawks and has been credentialed for the MLB All-Star Game and postseason and multiple Stanley Cup Finals. He is the co-host of the Line Drive Radio podcast.