The long-awaited decision regarding Jimmy Vesey’s future with the Nashville Predators will soon come to its conclusion.
Vesey and the Harvard Crimson are once again in the NCAA Tournament and play a first-round game against Boston College on Friday. Their season could extend to as long as Apr. 9 if they make it to the national championship game. Since the tournament is single elimination, a loss will end Harvard’s season and allow Vesey to join the Predators in the final stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs.
As Harvard’s captain, the 22-year-old senior had 24 goals and 46 points in 32 games, making him one of 10 Hobey Baker Award finalists.
Over the past year, there has been heavy speculation as to whether or not Vesey will sign with the Predators at the end of his collegiate career or become a free agent on Aug. 15.
At Nashville’s development camp in July, Vesey said, “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.”
Whether that is still the case is unknown to everyone except him.
Nashville general manager David Poile said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility of signing Vesey when appearing on Sportsnet’s “Hockey Central at Noon” Friday.
As Poile should be. It is plausible for Vesey to sign with the Toronto Maple Leafs since his father Jim is a scout for the team and his brother Nolan is a 2014 sixth round draft pick by the club. It also makes sense for Vesey, a native of North Reading, Massachusetts, to sign with his hometown Boston Bruins.
But the decision is up to him.
What if Vesey Signs with the Preds?
The Predators offer Vesey the most attractive situation. He can be in the NHL immediately, gain professional experience and can burn a year off his entry-level contract.
According to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, players 22 to 23 years of age signing entry-level deals can only have a length of two years. Since Vesey is 22, he would sign a two-year, entry-level contract, making him to be a restricted free agent next summer.
While that is not an ideal situation for the Predators, it is a pill they will gladly swallow for Vesey’s services.
The issue, however, lies in whether or not Poile can deliver on his promise to “put him right into the lineup.”
Nashville is currently playing at a level that could result in a deep playoff run. Since Feb. 12, the Predators are 12-2-5. Ryan Johansen and James Neal are hitting their stride, the second-line of Filip Forsberg, Mike Ribeiro and Craig Smith has arguably been the best line in the league as of late and even the bottom-six is contributing. Eric Nystrom (broken foot) recently returned to the lineup, squeezing Austin Watson out of the lineup, and Gabriel Bourque (upper-body) is no longer on injured reserve.
Things seem to be looking bright for Nashville, so why change it?
Slotting Vesey immediately into the lineup could disrupt the chemistry in the current lines. The timing of his arrival will play a factor, as well. Hopefully, Vesey is able to play until Apr. 9 and win Harvard a national championship. But the Predators certainly would not be upset to have him join the team sooner. If Vesey joins the Predators at any point in April, he would join the team just in time for their playoff run, however it would be wise to only play him if necessary given his unfamiliarity. If Nashville begins to slump at any point, Vesey would be there in hopes of being the solution.
Vesey’s decision could be made at any point between this weekend and the next two-to-three weeks. It is his to make, which makes this all the more intriguing. Soon enough, this will no longer be a question lingering in the Predators’ minds.
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.