Prospect Ramblings: Vesey drama highlight of remaining free agents (July 15)

David McDonald


What NHL uniform will Jimmy Vesey eventually wear?



Welcome back to my weekly prospect ramblings! This week I look at the drama sure to unfold with Jimmy Vesey, as well as a few of the 'best of the rest' who remain on the UFA market — and what prospects may take their spots on interested teams.

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The case of Vesey continues to be one of the summer storylines in the NHL. Originally drafted by the Nashville Predators, 66th overall in 2012, Vesey is another in a list of NCAA players who have played their senior year to become a UFA. At 23 years of age, the young left winger has shown he has legitimate NHL potential by posting 58 and 46 points in 37 and 33 games respectively.

This story has continued to grow this past week, as reports indicate his camp apparently has a shortlist of teams. This list allegedly includes the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Each of these clubs has its own unique trump card to play.

The Sabres acquired Vesey's rights from the Predators on June 20, hoping to sign the young forward quickly. This has not yet happened, and becomes a dimmer possibility with each passing day. It must be noted that Buffalo has other assets at hand – not the least of which is the fact that there is an existing friendship Vesey and franchise cornerstone Jack Eichel. While spending a third-round pick for the acquisition of Vesey’s negotiating rights  from Nashville remains a poor example of asset management from my own perspective, signing him would make sure it is likely not mentioned again.

The Bruins also remain a strong potential option in the sweepstakes. As a native of Boston, Vesey may be inclined to stay close to home – particularly after spending his collegiate career in the same town. This level of familiarity could be a tipping point, as few young players are given the chance to play with their hometown teams right away. The prospect of lining up beside either Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci wouldn't hurt as well.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been the long-rumored favourite to land the collegiate standout. Though it has been based purely on speculation, as there has been no information to suggest Toronto has a leg up in the proceedings, there may be some legitimacy to this theory. Vesey's father, Jim Sr., is employed by the Leafs as a member of their amateur scouting department. Furthermore, his older brother Nolan was drafted in the sixth round by the blue-and-white in 2014.

While this may help sway the young man, it must be equally considered that there may be an equal desire to go out on his own and blaze his own trail. Should that be the case, Toronto may be on the outside looking in.

The New Jersey Devils are a peculiar case, and as such, are a darkhorse. Just an hour outside of Manhattan, and with a lineup that could use scoring punch added to the likes of newly acquired Taylor Hall, the Devils could make a compelling case. With a legitimate top-tier goaltender in Cory Schneider, a solid (albeit unspectacular) defence corps, and a young group of prospects in Pavel Zacha, John Quenneville, and the newly drafted Michael McLeod, the Devils may be a good fit for a young player such as Vesey.

The Pittsburgh Penguins may be the obvious choice, if for no other reason than acting as reigning Stanley Cup champions. However, at least in this scout’s view, the Pens represent a weaker offer in the larger picture. Vesey may not be able to secure a legitimate scoring role on a team such as Pittsburgh, thus decreasing his ability to showcase his skill. To exacerbate the situation, the recent Cup victory will only shed more light and expectation on the club overall – something a newly arriving young man may not be accustomed to