The Sabres made their first big move of the offseason in trading for the rights to pending college free agent Jimmy Vesey. The 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner was acquired from the Nashville Predators for the 76th overall pick in the upcoming draft. Vesey’s camp has been adamant about his desire to hit the open market in August. However, the Sabres are hoping they can convince Vesey to sign a contract with some recruiting help from star center Jack Eichel.
Low Risk, High Reward
In making this deal General Manager Tim Murray wasn’t given any assurances that Vesey would indeed sign prior to August 15th. In fact Vesey’s agents released statements after the trade indicating that at this point he still intends to hit the open market.
Buffalo will do everything they can to get the 23-year-old to sign on the dotted line. It’s still extremely early in the process to know where this will end up. The wording in the statements from Vesey’s representatives is important to know. Using the phrase “at this time” gives them the flexibility to go back on this statement and say the Sabres wowed him into signing if that does end up being the outcome. The agents are doing their job in representing their client and making sure they find the best fit for him. On the flip side, Murray, likely doesn’t burn the third round pick unless he has some kind of idea that he can get Vesey to sign.
The Sabres biggest selling point to Vesey will be the opportunity to play with fellow Boston native and buddy Jack Eichel. The two are currently playing as teammates in a Boston summer league. The idea of Eichel, Vesey and Sam Reinhart forming a trio is very intriguing for Sabres fans and a nightmare for opposing defenders. Vesey would provide size, skill and a finishing touch on the wing with two dynamic players. Murray indicated that he views Vesey as a top six player and believes that is part of what makes Buffalo a good fit. The Sabres have a need for that role on their roster.
BUF GM on trading for Vesey rights: "Why not us? Why not give it a shot? We have a spot in our Top 6 for him. We had four 3rd-round picks."
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 20, 2016
At the end of the day the young winger still may go to the open market and sign with another club. However, the willingness to make a bold move is what has made Murray successful so far. The Sabres General Manager was entering the weekend with four third round picks and now he’s used one on a low risk roll of the dice. If it works out then Murray comes off as a genius. If it doesn’t then all you lose is a third round pick that is a shot in the dark anyways.
If the Sabres do indeed find a way to bring on Vesey, they’ll be in an unbelievably good cap position for a few years. Buffalo could possibly have three top six forwards signed to low cap hit entry-level contracts. This would allow the Sabres to still explore the options of adding a top pair defenseman and another top scoring forward. If everything falls the Sabres way over the next few weeks they have the possibility to be a very dangerous club next season. They’ll have the ability to get themselves in position to make playoff run over the next few years before the entry-level contracts expire.
The Sabres will likely look to move quickly to gauge Vesey’s real interest in signing a deal as free agency approaches on July 1st. There’s no guarantee Vesey signs on with the Buffalo. He may be intent on seeing what his market would be as a unrestricted-free-agent. Buffalo seems like a fit on paper and gives the highly touted prospect an opportunity to make an immediate impact.