The Nashville Predators did everything they could to sign Jimmy Vesey, but it was apparently not enough.
Vesey and his agents notified the Predators Monday that he would be exercising his right to unrestricted free agency on Aug. 15.
Poile: “I clearly believe Jimmy has received bad advice and bad counseling.” #Preds
— Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten) March 29, 2016
Nashville drafted Vesey in the third round (66th overall) at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Vesey’s senior season at Harvard University ended Friday evening in a 4-1 loss to Boston College in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Tournament. In four seasons with the Crimson, Vesey totaled 144 points (80 goals, 64 assists) in 128 games, won two Walter Brown Awards for being the best player in New England and has been a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in the past two seasons.
It is fairly obvious as to why Vesey is the most highly touted college player turning pro.
A week ago, all signs pointed to him signing with the Predators once Harvard’s season ended. Even his father Jim, a scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs, wanted Vesey to sign with the Preds.
“Every indication was that he was going to sign with us,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “His dad told me, [head coach] Peter Laviolette, [director of player development] Scott Nichol, [assistant general manager] Paul Fenton that his son was going to sign with us.
“And Jimmy, himself, told Fenton prior to the trade deadline, which was an important time for us because it was our last opportunity to change our team. We told him if he was going to sign with us, we were going to keep a position available for him. He told us he was going to sign with us.”
Vesey said in July: “When my season ends at Harvard, I would really like to sign [with Nashville] next spring and get some pro experience before heading into training camp [in 2016]. If the opportunity is right to sign here in Nashville, then it is going to be a no-brainer.”
Nashville provided the best option for Vesey. He could enter the lineup right away, be a part of the team’s playoff run and could burn a year off his entry-level deal in the process.
On Wednesday, however, things changed. Vesey and his agents told Poile that he was considering free agency. Poile requested a meeting with Vesey, his family and the agents in hopes of reinforcing the opportunity the Predators provided.
While there have been conversations, a meeting was never accommodated.
Though Vesey appears to be a pipe dream for the Predators at this point, Poile vows to keep pursuing him before he becomes a UFA.
If the Predators were able to sign Vesey for this season, the biggest question was if he could slide into the lineup right away? Nashville has a good thing going, being the best in the league since Feb. 12 with a 14-3-5 record. Adding Vesey this late into the season could have screwed up the current chemistry.
While this a tough pill for Nashville to swallow, they have a scary team entering the playoffs. There is no more distractions off the ice, and Poile can sit back and watch his team ride into the postseason.
“Vesey Watch” just got a lot more interesting for the other 29 teams in the league that would relish at the chance to sign him. The leading candidates for Vesey are the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Vesey, a native of North Reading, Mass., grew up a Bruins fan. As for the Leafs, he has ties with the team since his brother Nolan was drafted by the club in 2014 and his father is a scout.
May the most enticing team win.
Colin Fitts is a Nashville Predators staff writer and is a credentialed media member of the Chicago Wolves. From Nashville, Tennessee, Colin majors in journalism and public relations at Columbia College Chicago. Follow him on Twitter, @FittsTHW. Email: 22fitts [at] gmail [dot] com.