Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Steal of the century?

Reprinted with permission from

Stephen Harris of the Boston Herald said of the trade by the Buffalo Sabres for the rights to forward Jimmy Vesey, "It would be the steal of the century if Buffalo can sign Vesey."

The 2016 Hobey Baker winner as college's top player was a 2012 draft pick of the Nashville Predators (66th overall) and opted not to join the playoff-bound club this spring even after Preds GM David Poile kept a spot open for him in the top-nine/six through the trade deadline. The hope was that the 6'2" 201 lb. winger would bring his 80 career NCAA goals and 144 points to Nashville for an extended playoff run. It didn't work out that way, however, as Vesey informed the team he would not sign with them and was looking towards August 15 when he would become an unrestricted free agent.

By trading for Vesey, the Sabres now have exclusive negotiating rights him.

It's been quite the soap opera lately when it comes to Vesey. His decision to spurn Nashville and opt for free agency has him being pulled in three different directions. There's the natural pull from Boston as the North Reading, MA native hunkered down in the area while playing college hockey at Harvard. His father Jim was drafted and played briefly in the NHL for Boston and is now a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs. And Vesey is also a "longtime buddy," according to Harris, of Sabres center and fellow Hobey Baker winner Jack Eichel who grew up in North Chelmsford, MA (also in the Boston area) and was the second-overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft.

Eichel and Vesey workout together in the summer and were also team mates on the Bronze Medal winning USA squad at the 2015 IIHF World Hockey Championships. In addition to their Boston bloodlines, college background and back-to-back Hobey Baker wins, they also share the same agent, Peter Fish. So when asked by the gathered media in April at locker cleanout day what he would tell Vesey about playing for the Buffalo Sabres he offered this to his longtime friend.

“It’s a great future here,” said Eichel. “It’s a great city to play in. It’s a great team to be a part of. We have a young group that’s headed in the right direction. It’s definitely a hockey city. People care about you here. People would love to have you.”

Yes indeed, the fans of Buffalo would certainly love to have a talented winger slot right into the top-six not to mention having their team be a destination over rivals like Toronto and Boston. But Eichel was sensitive to the situation which includes things like tampering as well as empathy for what Vesey is going through right now.

“I talked to Jimmy last night quickly. Nothing about free agency,” said Eichel. “I just shot him a quick text congratulating him on the Hobey Baker.

“This is definitely somewhere that would be a great place to play for him. I’ll see him plenty this summer. I don’t have to bug him about it. I’m sure everyone else is, and I know he’s going through a lot right now from what he said.”

The elder Vesey is obviously close his son's situation and being the father of a coveted player who's rights are with an NHL team other than his, he must say and do everything he can to avoid tampering allegations. Vesey was, and still is, of the belief that his son will go to August 15 and test the market and after hearing of the trade father Vesey said that he was "surprised the deal went down."

"It's still my understanding that he's going to free agency," continued the ex-Bruin. "The gameplan as of Sunday was to have a list of possible teams ready, get to Aug. 15th and then decide. I know nothing has changed. I bet Jimmy's surprised by this too."

Peter Donatelli who also represents Vesey to ESPN Staff Writer Joe McDonald this concerning the trade, "In our opinion, the only thing that has happened is now the Sabres have stepped into the shoes of Nashville for exclusive rights [to negotiate] until Aug. 15. However, at this time, it doesn't change Jimmy Vesey's intention to become a free agent on Aug. 15."

In looking at potential teams, Vesey the younger was quoted by Harris as saying, "I'll look at what a team has in terms of NHL roster, and also what it has in the prospect pool. I'll also be looking at the coaches and what style of play is going to fit me the best. The city, definitely. There's a lot that going to go into [deciding on a team]. I'm excited about it and I can't wait to see where I'm going to end up."

Through all of this there's really no clear cut leader in the Vesey Sweepstakes, just a new team in the Buffalo Sabres that will hold exclusive negotiating rights. Vesey has said all along that he's looking for the best fit and about the only thing might be holding back the Sabres in the process is the size of the city compared to places like Toronto or Boston.

As for the other aspects mentioned by the winger, the Sabres and GM Tim Murray have the wherewithal and cap-space to offer Vesey a contract that can fit his financial needs, which oft-times can be the determining factor. As for Vesey's checklist, Buffalo has an NHL roster that's loaded with talented young players and talented young vets, they have a strong prospect pool thanks to 34 overall picks in the last four drafts which includes 10 first and second round picks either playing on the big club or who are still in the system. Murray and Co. have already started to integrate them into the team as Eichel, fellow 2nd-overall draft pick Sam Reinhart, 2013 1st-rounder Rasmus Ristolainen, 2012 1st-rounder Zemgus Girgensons, and 2012 2nd-rounder Jake McCabe are already in Buffalo with a year under their belt as a new core rising.

The Sabres also have a coach with a Stanley Cup to his resume in Dan Bylsma and Vesey will have the opportunity to skate on a wing with either his longtime friend in Eichel, or the team's leading scorer last season, young-vet Ryan O'Reilly.

It's quite the package the Sabres have to offer, but all-in-all, they could lose a third round pick in the upcoming draft. "I don't consider it to be a bold move," Murray told The Associated Press of giving up one of his four 3rd-round picks to land Vesey's rights. But he did acknowledge, "It's a gamble."

Then he went on to tell TSN's Bob McKenzie, “Why not us? Why not give it a shot?’’

Sabreland agrees wholeheartedly. And, who knows, for a third-round pick it could very well end up being the steal of this very young century.

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