With less then 24 hours before highly sought after college free agent Jimmy Vesey becomes an unrestricted free agent, the hockey world is a buzz. While there are plenty of rumors circulating as to where Vesey will ink his first pro contract, it seems as though know final decision has been made by the Vesey camp.
Through the summer months numerous teams have been mentioned in regards to Jimmy Vesey. With the clock winding down until the 2016 Hobey Baker Award Winner can official sign with the team of his choosing, it seems as though all thirty NHL clubs have expressed some interest in the North Reading, Massachusetts native. While Vesey has drawn interest around the league, many consider his unofficially “list” has been narrowed down to around six or seven clubs.
With that being said, its now time to take a look at those clubs that are apparently on Vesey’s short list.
A team that has come up on regards to Vesey a lot lately, you have to consider the Flyers as a long shot to sign the four year college sensation. While the Flyers are certainly an intriguing club, with an opening within their top six for Vesey to fill, Philadelphia has limited cap space as we near the 2016-2017 season. According to CapFriendly.com the Flyers have $72,586,666 committed to 24 players, leaving them just $413,334 under the salary cap. With Vesey expected to sign a maximum two-year entry level deal, that comes with an annual cap hit of $3.775 million, it seems unlikely that the Flyers can make a deal work, unless they shed some cap over the next 24 hours.
New York Rangers
As an American, who wouldn’t want to play for the New York Rangers. One of the most prominent American franchises in the NHL, the Rangers not only have the cap space to sign Vesey, but a roster that could yet again challenge for a Stanley Cup next season. While Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist are aging, the Rangers possess one of the strongest blue lines in the NHL along with a young and skilled forward core. The Rangers also have a few connections to Vesey as the Massachusetts native skates with Kevin Hayes over the summer, is close with Chris Kreider and played with centre J.T Miller at the 2012-2013 World Junior Championships, where the Americans captured Gold. Now those are modest connections that may or may not play a role in the Rangers ability to lure Vesey to New York, however they are noteworthy footnotes. While this all sounds good and well, the biggest issue the Rangers possess is their depth chart. Where does Vesey slot in? With Derek Stepan and Mika Zibanejad down the middle, Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes occupying top six wing slots, the Rangers top six looks complete. With top six roles being presented by other suitors, does Vesey want to come to New York and play a depth role?
New Jersey Devils
Somewhat surprisingly the New Jersey Devils have become a very prominent team to watch in regards to Vesey’s services. The Devils certainly haven’t been quiet this off-season, acquiring high end forward Taylor Hall from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defensemen Adam Larsson in an attempt to increase their offensive output. The Devils have a number of things going for them as the can offer Vesey a top six role, a max salary and the intrigue of playing on what looks to be a very promising Devils squad. Things would need to shuffle around some for Vesey to play in that top six as Mike Cammalleri and Taylor Hall look to be the Devils 1-2, Left Winger’s. However Cammalleri and Hall can both play the opposite wing, while Cammalleri has also played down the middle in the past, seemingly making it an easy shift if Vesey were to sign. There isn’t anything significant standing in the way of the Devils signing Vesey, however with 2015 first round Pavel Zacha likely turning pro and the likes of promising youngsters Joseph Blandisi and Reid Boucher proving their worth as NHL forwards last season, the Devils pursuit of Vesey may not be as strong as we are being led to believe.
The Buffalo Sabres jumped the gun in their attempt to sign Vesey, trading a third round pick to the Nashville Predators in exchange for essentially the ability to negotiate with Vesey two months prior to the rest of the NHL. While it was a bold move by Sabres general manager Tim Murray, the move seemingly failed as Vesey still remains un-signed less then 24 hours before he can become an unrestricted free agent. Kudos has to go to Murray for the bold attempt, as landing the 6’1 winger would have certainly helped the Sabres “rebuild”. So what does Buffalo have going for them? Well to start, Buffalo has three elite center’s for Vesey to play with, in Jack Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Sam Reinhart. They have the cap space to offer him a max contract and are more then willing to do so. An lastly they can offer him a role within their top six. When you mix in Terry Pegula’s commitment financially to bringing a winner to Buffalo, Vesey can rest easy knowing he’ll be compensated fairly in future contract talks. There’s know denying the Sabres interest in Vesey. They made the bold move of trading a pick for his right’s. They’ve been wooing him since obtaining those rights and are said to have made a last minute pitch earlier today. However with that all being said, one has to think if Vesey was going to ink a deal with the Sabres, he would have done so already.
A native of North Reading, Massachusetts, Boston is home for Vesey. The skilled winger not only calls Boston home, but grew up a huge Bruins fan and is close with current Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes. It seems as though the writing is on the wall for the Massachusetts native to stay local and help the Bruins capture another Stanley Cup. However home isn’t always the ideal situation for a hockey player. Most recently we saw All-Star Steven Stamkos choose to stay in Tampa over returning home to Toronto. Now that’s a more recent example of a player choosing to stay away from home, and it was one that got a lot of coverage, but make no mistake this happens more often then not. That’s not to say Vesey will choose to do the same, however playing close to home brings a lot of pressure for a young hockey player. Pressure that Vesey will undoubtedly get know matter where he signs, however it will only be amplified if he signs with his home town club. Financially the Bruins are in a place where they can offer Vesey a max entry level contract with $6,731,666 in cap space, however where he falls in the depth chart remains to be scene. Brad Marchand and Matt Belesky are expected to be the Bruins 1-2 punch down the left side, while youngster David Pastrnak has also played the left wing in his brief NHL career. Sure you could move Belesky down to the third line or Pastrnak to the right side, however it would seemingly be poor asset management playing a near four million dollar player in Matt Belesky to skate on your fourth line. With that being said, I can’ honestly say I don’t expect the Bruins to be a strong favorite to sign the Harvard Alum. Boston is a perennial contender with an impressive amount of talent and provide a lot of what Vesey seemingly wants in a team.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Lots has been made about the Leaf setting themselves up a year in advance to sign the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner. Toronto hired Vesey’s dad, who is also named Jim (Jimmy) prior to the beginning of last season as part of their staff overhaul. Throw in the fact Vesey’s brother, Nolan is a 2014, sixth round pick of the Leafs and you quickly realize there are some significant ties to the club. Now the Leafs aren’t a perennial powerhouse or even playoff club, at least at this time. However they have put themselves in a position where their future looks incredibly bright. With arguably the best coach in the world behind the Leafs bench, Vesey has the opportunity to learn from the best and play a prominent role for him right away. With a number of highly touted forward prospects the Leafs would love to add Jimmy Vesey to the mix, and they haven’t hid that fact. With the allure of playing with 2016 first overall pick Auston Matthews, along with playing under Mike Babcock and the evident family ties, you have to assume the Leafs are among the favorites to sign Vesey. Mix in general manager Lou Lamoriello and his ties to Eastern NCAA hockey, along with playing and living in one of the most intriguing metropolitan communities in North America and you see why the Leafs would be appealing, despite their lack of recent on-ice success. The Leafs are up tight against the cap, with just $435,000 to spend, however that includes Nathan Horton’s $5.3 million dollar contact that will go on Long Term IR and Jared Cowen’s $3.1 Million dollar contract that should be coming off the books shortly.
With all the success the Chicago Blackhawks have had in recent years, the club really doesn’t need to sell any hockey player on why Chicago is the place to play. Winners of three Stanley Cup Championships since the 2009-2010 season, the Chicago Blackhawks have been perennial cup contenders since the 2008-2009 season. The boast arguably the most electrifying offensive player in the NHL in Patrick Kane along with proven winner and perennial All-Star Jonathan Toews, among others. The United Centre is sold out and rocking every night, players come into Chicago and find immediate success and how can you forget the rich tradition of the Blackhawks organization. Playing under Joel Quenneville allows Vesey to learn from one of the very best the game has to offer. Vesey should also be afford an opportunity to play in the Blackhawks top six, as they have a glaring hole to fill at left wing, within that top six. The club can offer Vesey a max entry level contract after moving out some salary over the off-season. However about a million more dollars cap room would need to be created to accommodate a Vesey signing, but that shouldn’t be to tough to make work. To me Chicago is the front runner. They provide everything Vesey is seeking, playing for a perennial winner, a top six roster spot and max entry level deal. Playing behind Toews, Kane, Hossa and Panarin also takes the pressure and spotlight off the soon to be rookie, which will play a small factor.
Now that we’ve touched on what seem to be the seven front runners for Vesey’s services, here are some ‘Need to Know’s” on Jimmy Vesey.
Vesey is a 6’1, 194 pound left shooting, left winger, who was originally selected by the Nashville Predators in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft 66th overall. Vesey’s rise to prominence dates back to the 2009-2010 season when he caught the high of scouts will suiting up for Belmont Hill High. In two seasons at Belmont Hill, Vesey appeared in 62 games, tallying 36 goals and 29 assist, for 65 points.
The following season Vesey joined the South Shore Kings of the EJHL, where he dominated, racking up 48 goals and 43 assists on route to being named the EJHL’s MVP. After just one season in the EJHL, Vesey joined Harvard University for the 2012-2013 season, beginning what was a four year stay at the University. Amidst his freshmen campaign at Harvard, Vesey was selected to represent Team USA at the World Junior Championships. In seven games, Vesey recorded five points, as Team USA went on to capture the Gold Medal. Over Vesey’s four year collegiate career, the 6’1 left winger racked up a total of 144 points in 128 games. Highly decorated over those four seasons, Vesey’s biggest accomplishment came this past season when he won the Hobey Baker Award as College Hockey’s Top Player.
As the hours tick down on “Vesey Watch 2016” many wonder what the contract parameters for Jimmy Vesey are. Well with Vesey being 23 years of age, NHL clubs can offer him a max contract length of two years. If Vesey is to receive the max salary in said deal, which he is expected to, here are some of the parameters. Vesey’s base salary would be $832,500 with a $92,500 signing bonus. Vesey would also have the ability to earn up to $2.85 million in performance bonuses and would carry a $3.775 AAV. Meanwhile Vesey would carry a $925,000 cap hit for any team that signs him.
Here’s how performance bonuses work. They are split into two categories, “A” and “B”. Vesey can earn a maximum of $850,000 from his “A” bonuses. Some of the achievements in “A” bonuses are things such as Goals, Assists, Points, PPG, +/-, Average Ice Time and All-Star Game Participant to name a few. No achievement can pay no more then $212,500. Essentially any team signing Vesey can pick the four easiest performance based achievements for Vesey and have them all worth $212,500 which would total $850,000. Then the “B” category, which is more geared toward post season awards. “B” category bonuses are to be paid by the league and would be triggered if Vesey finished in the top five in voting for any of the leagues Major awards, including the Calder, which would be the one trophy Vesey would likely be in contention for. Essentially these bonuses will allow Vesey to be compensated more then fairly should he produce as the top six forward many expect him to be.
While we have filled you in on the front runners Vesey’s services, his potential contract status and some history on the highly sought after forward, we still have know idea when way the Massachusetts native is leaning in regards to him home for the next two or more seasons. One thing is for sure, the Hockey world is enamored with the Harvard alum and his final decision.
Written By: Mike Mackley (@Macker61)
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