Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Why I think Jimmy Vesey ultimately signs with Buffalo...after August 15.

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

I'm putting the odds of LW Jimmy Vesey signing with the Buffalo Sabres at 65/35.

That said, if he wants to stay in his hometown and play for the Boston Bruins, good luck. If he wants to spend his first couple of years in a metropolis like Toronto, go right ahead. Or even if he ends up in Detroit or, God forbid (being a Boston-boy,) in New York with the Rangers, have at it. The Sabres took a shot and may have thrown away a third round pick, but they'll still have 26 forwards in the system right now and five picks in the top-three rounds of the 2017 NHL Draft should they not be able to sign him..

Vesey has said all along that he wants to explore his options and that means heading towards August 15th when he will become a free agent. The biggest option he's considering is where he'd slot into on an NHL lineup. He's looking to land with a club that will give him the opportunity to play in a top-six role for the length of his two-year, entry-level contract.  Money's no object in the matter as he'll be getting a maxed-out contract from whomever signs him so his focus is on playing time and the opportunity to put up big numbers for his next contract, "one that will be all the more lucrative if he has goals and assists as bona fides," wrote Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe in a recent article.

Vesey spoke to Dupont prior to the opening of free agency last week saying that after the dust settles he'll be able to "really sit back and start looking at roster depth charts" to figure out which team he thinks will meet his needs. The big reason he wants to go to August 15th is to be able to discuss his options face-to-face with teams other than the Buffalo Sabres, who own his rights. "I’ll talk to the coach, the GM, stuff like that, then weigh my options," he said in the piece.

He also said he's got it down to a select few teams. "I have a couple of teams in mind, but my dad’s said he is going to let me make the decision," said Vesey to Dupont. “I think that’s fair. I am 23 years old at this point, so I am a man on my own."

For as much as he's "on his own," Vesey's dad, Jim, seems to be entering the vernacular quite often. Jim Vesey, a former St. Louis draft pick (1984) who played in 15 NHL games, was mentioned by Jake Meagher, beat reporter for the Harvard Crimson, in reference to why his hometown Bruins might not be a fit.

"It was interesting," Meagher told WGR550's Matthew Coller, "because all signs were pointing to Boston and right after he won the Hobey Baker Award (for top college player) this year his dad was the one that pretty much came out in the press conference and said, 'yeah, I don't think it's a good idea for [Jimmy] to go to Boston. It's too much pressure for a kid from around here.'"

Meagher has no more insight into the Vesey's thought process than you or I but it was pretty definitive in how he presented that tidbit to Coller as it adds a whole new dimension to the saga. Although the elder Vesey hasn't come off as a meddlesome, Carl Lindros type hockey dad, he won't pull punches when speaking about his son's future. When Jimmy's rights were traded to Buffalo the week of the NHL Draft, Jim Vesey chimed in saying, "I’m surprised this deal went down, but it’s still my understanding that he’s going to Aug. 15 and free agency. The game plan as of like (Sunday) was to have a list of possible (potential) teams ready, and get to Aug. 15 and then decide. I know nothing has changed. I bet Jimmy’s surprised by this, too.”

Jimmy Vesey is Boston born and raised and kept it close when he decided upon Harvard University to pursue his college degree. Family is huge for many Bostonians and the pull of playing the hometown hockey team is great. Yet Vesey is a young man ready to make what could be the biggest decision in his life to this point and as most young men like to do when trying to cut the umbilical cord, venturing out into the unknown of another area seems like a good way to start living their own lives. Oft-times having a friend away from home helps.

Vesey and Buffalo's Jack Eichel grew up a half-hour away from each other barely outside of Boston and work out with each other in the off season. Buffalo GM Tim Murray traded for the exclusive rights to woo Vesey saying aftewards, "We might use Jack as a tool. I'd be a tool not to."

Prior to the trade Eichel talked about how he might pitch Buffalo to Vesey. “It’s a great future here. It’s a great city to play in. It’s a great team to be a part of," he told the gathered media on locker cleanout day. "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 and it’s a great place to play. ... This is definitely somewhere that would be a great place to play for him. I’ll see him plenty this summer.”

Eichel intends to play it cool with his friend over the course of the next six weeks. An initial pitch for the city of Buffalo and the organization has already been made and if Vesey has any questions about some of the talent he'll have with the Sabres, he can look no further than the 2015 Hobey Baker winner whom he's playing hockey with right now as Eichel's talent speaks for itself.

Murray and company plan to meet with Vesey this week as the Sabres Development Camp is going on. Although it would be nice to see him skating on the ice with the other prospects, hopefully he'll be in the area for a few days to see just what the Sabres have built in and around First Niagara Center and HARBORCENTER.

Sitting down with Murray, head coach Dan Bylsma and more than likely the Pegulas, amongst others, is what Murray bought when he traded for Vesey's rights. The Sabres own exclusive negotiating rights for him up until August 15th and by that time Vesey will know nearly everything he'll need to know about the organization and the direction it's headed in. Yet, Sabres fans, make no mistake, Vesey seems intent upon hitting free agency.

“I don’t think in his mind anything has changed,” Eichel told WEEI.com prior to the draft concerning Vesey's August 15th plans. “I think he’s still going to wait until free agency, but it’s nice to have him part of the organization, I guess. It would be great if he came to the Sabres, but he’s going to do whatever’s best for him at that point.”

The Buffalo Sabres can offer Vesey as much if not more than any other team mentioned in the "Vesey Sweepstakes." They're a team on the rise and have an initial spot in the top-six amongst a very talented group of forwards open for Vesey. They have an owner with deep pockets, a GM always ready to do whatever's necessary to make his team better and a Stanley Cup-winning coach.

Although there's no family surrounding Vesey like he would have in Boston or Toronto, he has a friend in Eichel and that might be the determining factor in him ultimately signing with the Sabres. For young men striking out on their own, the next best thing to family is friendship. And when cutting the umbilical cord, trusting in a friend usually trumps family.

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