With free agency kicking off well over a month ago, all of the most prominent names that were available have now been signed. That said, there are still a number of capable NHL players who are waiting on a deal, one that they hope will come before training camps get underway in mid-September.
One player who finds himself anxiously sitting beside the phone is Jimmy Vesey. The now 29-year-old was one of the most sought-after college free agents back in 2016, an event so highly anticipated it got dubbed the ‘Vesey Watch.’ He chose at that time to sign with the New York Rangers but has since also suited up for the Buffalo Sabres, Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks and most recently, the New Jersey Devils.
While it is clear that Vesey has a very high skill level, he has struggled to put up offensive numbers at the NHL level. After some great college totals with Harvard, he has surpassed the 30-point mark just once in his six-year career, that coming back in 2018-19 when he recorded 17 goals and 35 points in 81 contests. That said, however, he has scored north of 15 goals three times in his career, meaning that he can provide depth scoring to a lineup, an area that plenty of teams are always looking to improve. Here are three potential fits.
New York Rangers
Just weeks ago, well-known reporter Larry Brooks recently suggested that a reunion is likely between the New York Rangers and Vesey. Brooks speculated that the deal will be just one-year in term and come in at a league minimum of $750,000. (from ‘Larry Brooks: Islanders should honor Ed Westfall for helping lay dynasty’s foundation,’ New York Post 06/08/22).
This deal could make some sense for the Rangers, as they have a few question marks up front heading into the 2022-23 season, particularly in Vitali Kravtsov. The 22-year-old ninth overall pick from the 2018 draft is expected to crack the roster out of training camp, but to this point has struggled to find his game while playing in North America. Signing Vesey as insurance would be a reasonably wise move by general manager Chris Drury.
While Vesey’s stock has taken a hit the past few seasons, many forget that he was reasonably productive during his time as a Ranger. In 240 games with the organization, he notched 50 goals and 90 points. That by no means is otherworldly production, but would be welcomed production from a player presumed to be signing for the league minimum. From a cap perspective, the Rangers could make this work, as they currently have just over $1 million in space. Time will tell, but they seem to be the best fit right now.
New York Islanders
If the Rangers choose not to sign Vesey, perhaps a deal with the cross-town New York Islanders makes some sense. This offseason has been an utter disaster for the Isles and general manager Lou Lamoriello, as they failed to make any adjustments after a very disappointing 2021-22 season in which they finished fifth in the Metropolitan Division.
Many expected the Islanders to be in on several key free agents this offseason, including Johnny Gaudreau and Nazem Kadri. In fact, many believed that they had signed the latter weeks ago but were keeping it private, a theory that was debunked on Thursday when it was announced the Calgary Flames were signing him to a seven-year deal.
At this point, Lamoriello simply has to do something to try and show that he is hoping to have a competitive roster in 2022-23. Vesey is by no means anywhere close to the same caliber of player as either of the two mentioned above but is one of the more interesting names that remain available. Given the fact that the Islanders finished in the bottom 10 for goals scored this past season, they could certainly benefit from some added offence to their lineup, something Vesey has proven in the past he can provide.
While this is certainly more of a stretch, the Nashville Predators may make more sense as a landing spot for Vesey than some would think. General manager David Poile is very familiar with his game, as he originally drafted him with a third-round pick (66 overall) back in 2012.
Ultimately, Vesey chose not to sign a deal with the Predators at the time and as a result, became a free agent. However, you can bet at this time if they came calling with an offer, he would accept in a heartbeat. He would be nothing more than a 13th forward in Nashville but could be thrown into the lineup by head coach John Hynes if they were to run into injury troubles or had another forward struggling. A depth forward role would be much better filled by someone like Vesey as opposed to a young up-and-coming prospect who would be much better off getting plenty of reps at the American Hockey League level.
The Predators currently have over $2 million in cap space, giving them plenty of room to bring in Vesey. Perhaps even offering him a professional tryout offer to come to camp and show what he could do first would be worth considering for Poile, though flat out offering him a one-year deal wouldn’t be the worst option either.
Vesey Needs to Remain Patient
While it has to be frustrating, Vesey will need to do his best to remain patient while also continuing to prepare for the 2022-23 season. At this point, a deal may not come his way until teams are able to take a look at what they have in training camp. If they feel they are missing something, or perhaps end up losing a player or two to injury, that may very well be when Vesey is able to get his opportunity and prove his worth. Once that opportunity comes, it is up to him to show he is indeed worthy of being on an NHL roster.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.