Canucks Were Eager to Grab Vesey Off the Maple Leafs’ Waiver Wire

There’s always a chance that when an NHL team puts a player on waivers that another team will pick him up. It couldn’t have been a total surprise to Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas that Jimmy Vesey was quickly grabbed by the Vancouver Canucks yesterday after he was waived.

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Vesey’s Move Was Speedy by Everyone Involved

In fact, after the Maple Leafs placed Vesey on waivers, the Canucks jumped quickly. At the same time, Vesey wasted no time making the four and a half hour (450 km) drive east on the 401 from Toronto to Ottawa. Part of Vesey’s speedy move was to comply with the NHL’s rules about quarantine and isolation.

Probably also part of  Vesey’s reason for speed might have been because, as a player who was getting fourth-line minutes in Toronto, Vesey was probably anxious for the chance to get more ice time with the Canucks.

William Nylander Toronto Maple Leafs
William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Maple Leafs also wasted little time. Quickly after Vesey had officially departed, the team moved Alex Galchenyuk to the big club and partnered him on the team ‘s second line with William Nylander and John Tavares in practice. The NHL is a business, after all.

Why the Maple Leafs Waived Vesey

On Tuesday, when Dubas spoke with media about the state of his team just over halfway through the regular season, he spoke about having to put Vesey on waivers. The main reason he offered was that he felt he needed to increase the team’s roster flexibility, especially with backup goalie Jack Campbell and forward Wayne Simmonds soon to return to the team’s roster.

Wayne Simmonds Toronto Maple Leafs
Wayne Simmonds, Toronto Maple Leafs Right Wing (Photo by Steven Kingsman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In the video below, the Maple Leafs general manager outlines his reasoning behind putting Vesey on waivers, and explains why it was partly based on salary cap juggling.

Kyle Dubas Outlined Two Specific Reasons for Placing Vesey on Waivers

First, Dubas named increased competition as a key. He reported that he felt earlier in the season when the team had “placed a number of guys who now comprise our fourth line on waivers or sent them down, I thought it was really good competition.” Dubas named Adam Brooks Nic Petan, Travis Boyd, and Joey Anderson as examples. In fact, he also named Jason Spezza (and Vesey) as part of that group.

Toronto Maple Leafs Jason Spezza
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jason Spezza (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Dubas believed that, when all the different players who had played in fourth-line roles were coming in and out of the lineup, the competition that was created really fueled great performances from those players.

Second, Dubas suggested that the salary-cap issues also had created this need. He noted that “when Campbell came off of LTIR and back onto the roster but now has been sort of day-to-day here since the game in Edmonton, it has sort of limited what we can do in terms of players coming on and off, especially because we don’t have much waiver flexibility with those guys on the lower end of the roster.”

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Dubas did say that the organization was looking to “increase our flexibility on roster” and also added that “Campbell and Simmonds get closer to a return, we do have to do some juggling with the cap situation.”

Why the Canucks Picked Up Vesey

Thomas Drance, a senior writer with The Athletic, tweeted after Vesey was picked up that he believed Vancouver’s decision to grab him made sense. He noted that Vesey was a “competent, NHL-level middle-six forward” and that was something the Canucks needed. In addition, Vesey’s contract was a good one for any team.

Drance’s assessment was that Vesey was a “Nice get, actually, and perhaps a sign of some modest, enhanced flexibility?”

Vesey Was Ready, But Didn’t Play on Wednesday Night

After making the drive from Toronto to Ottawa, at first it was reported that Vesey would be making his Canucks’ debut in Wednesday’s game against the Senators and would skate on the team’s third line. However, as it turned out, although Vesey skated on the third line during warmups, he likely won’t play in his first Canucks’ game until Friday.

Driving Fast to Fight COVID-19’s Ticking Clock

An interesting aspect of Vesey’s move was the rules that had been laid down by the NHL about player movements in the time of COVID-19. Specifically, because the Canucks picked up Vesey in Ontario (he’s already in Canada) and because the drive was less than five hours (four-hours and 30-minutes), Vesey didn’t have to quarantine or isolate.

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The NHL’s rules note that, if a player who’s been called up or is moving teams can get to his new location in less than five hours by car – and drives himself, he would remain exempt from the league’s isolation protocol. Vesey did just that. (from “Canucks’ newest addition Jimmy Vesey faces race against COVID-19 clock,” Patrick Johnston, The Province, 17/03/21).

Vesey’s Future with the Canucks

Because Vesey drove to Ottawa to join his new team Wednesday, he’ll be an option for the two-game back-to-back series with the Montreal Canadiens on Friday and Saturday in Montreal. Fortunately, he won’t have to complete the NHL’s mandatory quarantine.

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With Vesey, the Canucks have added a winger who can play on their second or third line. The 27-year-old Vesey has only scored five goals and two assists (for seven points) in 30 games with the Maple Leafs this season; however, he’s likely to get more time on the ice in Vancouver. It will be interesting to see how well he might do in a more full-time role.