Not being able to sign Jimmy Vesey at the conclusion of his collegiate career was a tough pill to swallow for the Nashville Predators.
The Predators drafted Vesey in the third round (66th overall) of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, and he panned out to become an elite scorer in college hockey. At Harvard University, he amassed 144 points (80 goals, 64 assists) in 128 games and won the Hobey Baker Award his senior season.
Once Vesey’s season ended at Harvard, he had an opportunity to sign with the Predators. The 23-year old would be able to play in the playoffs and burn a year off of an entry-level contract — a pretty good situation. Instead, he surprisingly elected to not sign with Nashville and test the free agent market on Aug. 15.
“Every indication was that he was going to sign with us,” Nashville general manager David Poile said in March. “His dad (Toronto Maple Leafs scout Jim Vesey) 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’s representative Pete Donatelli and Peter Fish denied his commitment to sign with the Preds in a statement a few days later, however.
“This contention is not accurate,” Donatelli and Fish said in the statement. “The Predators were informed prior to the trade deadline that they should conduct their business as they saw fit and that the potential of signing or not signing Vesey should not be a factor in their decision.”
Nevertheless, Poile vowed to continue to pursue Vesey until he officially become an unrestricted free agent, but that bridge may have already been burned at that point.
Knowing the Predators’ window of signing Vesey had closed, they were able to trade his rights to the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round pick (76th overall) in this year’s draft, a great move to essentially turn nothing into something.
“It’s been pretty clear since late March that we’re not going to be able to sign Vesey,” Poile told The Tennessean. “We were fully aware of what the rules are, that he’d become an unrestricted free agent in mid-August, and at that time, we’d receive no compensation of any kind for our investment and our asset. By trading him today, in my opinion, we recouped the (third-round) pick we used to acquire him.”
Nashville now has eight draft picks, starting with the 17th overall selection in the first round. They can only hope that the newly acquired pick can be as promising as Vesey was.