Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey is one of the better college free agents to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in recent years. Let’s break down the main contenders for his services, and why he would choose each of them.
Boston Bruins –
Why he’ll sign: Vesey played at Harvard, which is just outside Boston. He told Joe Haggerty of CSN that he’s been a Bruins fan his whole life; he wears number 19 for former Bruins captain Joe Thornton and is friends with Bruins forward Jimmy Hayes and defenseman Torey Krug. Despite signing David Backes, the Bruins still need help up front and could offer Vesey playing time with one of their top two centers in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
Why he won’t sign: The Bruins have missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and appear to be spinning their wheels as neither a bottom feeder nor a legit Stanley Cup contender.
The Bruins desperately need a top defenseman to replace Zdeno Chara, and unless an unexpected major trade gets them one, they’re likely to rely on their current top six for another year.
Buffalo Sabres –
Why he’ll sign: Vesey is good friends with the Sabres franchise center, Jack Eichel. The two share an agent and play summer hockey together. The Sabres appear to be a team on the rise, and traded for Vesey’s rights earlier this summer. Vesey’s agent told Sportsnet that they’re pleased by what Buffalo “has done and said”.
Why he won’t sign: While there’s no obvious reason he wouldn’t choose the Sabres, his decision to remain committed to becoming a free agent despite the Sabres acquiring him and the chance to play with his good friend and fellow young star Eichel is an intriguing one. Of course, it could be similar to Steven Stamkos simply wanting to hear other pitches before deciding to stay put.
Chicago Blackhawks –
Why he’ll sign: The Blackhawks have been looking for a left winger to play with Jonathan Toews for the past year after trading Brandon Saad. As well, Vesey has to look no further than Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin for an example of the opportunities that the Blackhawks can offer. The chance to play on a Cup contending team with an opening in their top six next to one of the league’s best might be too good to pass up on. According to Adrian Dater, the Blackhawks reached out to Vesey immediately after they were allowed to.
Why he won’t sign: Similar to Buffalo, there’s no obvious reason he would pass on Chicago. The Blackhawks are very tight to the cap, but have shown a willingness to get creative to keep their core together.
New Jersey Devils –
Why he’ll sign: The Devils are looking for offence, and besides Kyle Palmieri and the newly-acquired Taylor Hall, don’t have a lot of options. Mike Cammalleri can score when healthy, but hasn’t played more than 68 games in a single season since 2008-09. There’s definitely an opening available in the top six and because of the hype surrounding Hall, Vesey wouldn’t be the big story of the season by default.
Why he won’t sign: The Devils haven’t made the playoffs since losing the 2012 Cup Finals and have hovered around the 0.500 mark since then. Despite the Hall addition, they don’t appear to be playoff contenders quite yet, unless Hall and Cory Schneider carry the team there.
New York Rangers –
Why he’ll sign: Vesey is good friends with current Rangers Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes (who was recently in Vesey’s position as college free agent) and could help boost the aging Rangers back into Cup contention. The Big Apple also has a certain allure.
Why he won’t sign: The Rangers’ Cup contending window appears to be closing, with three straight seasons of losing out earlier and earlier since losing the 2014 Finals to LA.
Toronto Maple Leafs –
Why he’ll sign: The chance to play with first overall pick Auston Matthews will be hard to pass up, as well as joining the same organization as his father and brother: Jim Vesey is a scout for the Maple Leafs and his brother Nolan Vesey was drafted by them in 2014.
Why he won’t sign: The Maple Leafs just finished last, and while they appear poised to rise in the coming seasons, that’s never guaranteed. Vesey may want to go for a sure thing and sign with a contender like the Blackhawks.