Vesey’s agent says NCAA standout plans to become free agent despite trade to Sabres

Jimmy Vesey may have seen his rights traded from Nashville to Buffalo, but the 23-year-old’s agents said the NCAA standout still doesn’t plan to sign with the Sabres before becoming a free agent on Aug. 15.

The Nashville Predators swung and missed when trying to sign top NCAA free agent Jimmy Vesey, but dealt the winger to the Buffalo Sabres for a third-round pick Monday in order to recoup something for their asset. Now it’s the Sabres’ turn to try and sign Vesey, but as the Predators found out, it’s not going to come easy.

Following the trade to Buffalo, Vesey’s agent, Peter Donatelli, told ESPN’s Joey McDonald that just because the NCAA standout has had his exclusive negotiating rights traded to the Sabres doesn’t mean the plan has changed at all.

“In our opinion, the only thing that has happened is now the Sabres have stepped into the shoes of Nashville for exclusive rights [to negotiate] until Aug. 15,” Donatelli told McDonald. “However, at this time, it doesn’t change Jimmy Vesey’s intention to become a free agent on Aug. 15.”

Say what you will for Vesey possibly spurning two teams, but this is absolutely his right. That said, whether there’s any truth to him wanting to forego signing in Buffalo in order to hit the open market is impossible to say. It could simply be a bargaining tool by Donatelli, who is one half of Vesey’s representation, along with Peter Fish.

The interesting thing about Vesey’s representation is that in having Fish as one of his agents, he shares a representative with Sabres rookie star Jack Eichel, as TSN’s Bob McKenzie pointed out shortly after Buffalo had acquired the 23-year-old’s rights. In speaking with media Tuesday, Sabres GM Tim Murray said he’d “be a tool” not to try to use the Eichel-Vesey connection to attempt to get Vesey under contract. Murray added he had no problem with Vesey’s representation stating Vesey still planned to hit the open market.

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Vesey’s such a sought after asset not just because he’s got the size and strength to suit up in the NHL next season, as well as a scoring touch that could see him develop into a top power forward. In 33 games this past season with Harvard, Vesey scored 24 goals and 46 points. That was only a slight decrease from the 32 goals and 58 points he scored in 37 games the year prior. He won the 2016 Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA player.

Originally a third-round choice of the Predators, 66th overall, the Sabres gave up the 76th selection to land the rights to Vesey. If he signs with Buffalo, they will have essentially landed a first-round talent for a third-round pick. And even after moving out the pick, the Sabres still have three third-round picks in the 2016 draft. It’s a gamble, to be sure, but it will be a wise and incredibly impressive one if it pays off.