The New Jersey Devils have added several interesting names to training camp, signing Jimmy Vesey, Mark Jankowski and Tyler Wotherspoon to professional tryout contracts. All three will be there when training camp opens for the Devils on September 22.
Vesey, 28, split last season between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks, recording five goals and ten points in 50 games. The 2016 Hobey Baker award winner was given an outstanding opportunity to start the year next to John Tavares and William Nylander, but was eventually moved down in the lineup when his production sagged. By March, he was placed on waivers by the Maple Leafs as they dealt with a cap squeeze and the Canucks grabbed him, only to watch him fail to score a single goal in 20 games down the stretch.
A third-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2012, that 2016 summer made Vesey the talk of the NHL as he snubbed the Predators and Buffalo Sabres to get to unrestricted free agency. He ended up signing with the New York Rangers and had three relatively productive seasons, but his career has gone downhill since.
Jankowski, 27, brings a similar story in recent seasons. A first-round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2012, he finally made it to the NHL in 2017 and actually had a very strong rookie season scoring 17 goals. His numbers have dwindled since then, however, and the big center scored just four goals and 11 points last season for the Pittsburgh Penguins. His performance in Pittsburgh was so poor that the team didn’t even decide to issue him a qualifying offer because of the risk of salary arbitration, despite him making only $700K last season.
At least those two were in the NHL last season, something Wotherspoon can’t claim. The 28-year-old defenseman hasn’t seen any NHL action since the 2016-17 campaign with Calgary and has just 36 total matches under his belt. Another disappointing Flames draft pick, he never did establish himself as a legitimate option at the highest level.
Though Devils fans may not find much excitement in this group, there’s something to be said for bringing in veteran players to drive competition at training camp. New Jersey is still one of the youngest teams in the league with only one forward–Tomas Tatar–that has even reached 30. With a few extra spots still up for grabs, Vesey and Jankowski may see it as a good spot to showcase their ability and try for another NHL contract.