Once the bulk of this summer's major NHL trades and free-agent signing are completed by mid-July, expect the big question in the rumor mill to be, “Where will Jimmy Vesey go?” Vesey, a left winger out of Harvard and a Nashville Predators draft pick, informed the latter earlier this week of his intention to become an unrestricted free agent on August 15.
The 22-year-old's decision caught the Preds front office by surprise. GM David Poile said he had every indication Vesey was coming to Nashville, suggesting the youngster received bad advice. Assistant GM Paul Fenton told Sportsnet 590 Vesey confirmed in February he was signing with the Predators. As a result, they apparently decided not to pursue a playoff rental player.
In a statement, Vesey's reps claim they told the Predators before the trade deadline to “conduct their business as they see fit, and that the potential of signing or not signing Jimmy Vesey should not be a factor in their decision.”
This isn't about financial gain for Vesey. TSN's Frank Seravalli notes all entry-level contracts are capped at $925K in base salary and $2.85 million in bonuses, so the youngster isn't getting a better financial deal elsewhere. In fact, if he'd gone to Nashville, he would've burned off a year of his ELC by playing this season, moving him a year close to restricted free agent status.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports Poile hasn't given up hope of changing Vesey's mind. At this point, however, that's a long shot. The young winger seems determined to exercise his right under CBA rules to choose where he'll begin his NHL career. While each side blames the other, the fact remains Vesey is heading to free agency in August.
It didn't take long for speculation to begin over his potential destinations. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman notes the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Vesey's father as an amateur scout and drafted his brother Nolan in the 2014 NHL draft. Meanwhile, the Boston Herald's Stephen Harris cites an “extremely well-placed source within the Boston-area college hockey community” claiming Vesey intends to sign with his hometown team, the Boston Bruins.
If Vesey signs with the Leafs, Friedman wonders if the Predators will file tampering charges. However, that could be difficult to prove. While hiring Vesey's dad and drafting his brother looks fishy, that doesn't prove they're being used as bait to land him. Unless someone in the Leafs front office spill the beans, it's doubtful tampering can be proved.
While Vesey may feel personal connections to the Leafs and Bruins, that won't stop other teams from pursuing him via free agency. His fate could provide some intrigue to a free-agent market that is usually tapped out by mid-August.
Speaking of the Maple Leafs, a recent report out of Russia claims they had some interest in former Predators winger Alex Radulov. Since his previous attempt at an NHL comeback with the Predator back in 2012, he's plied his craft with the KHL's CSKA Moscow.
TSN's Bob McKenzie said he wasn't aware of the Leafs having any interest in Radulov. He points out the winger's return with the Predators was a bust.
The Leafs are a rebuilding club and are likely considering all options to improve for next season. Adding a winger with a reputation for selfish, one-dimensional play, however, doesn't sound like the right mix for a club stocked with promising young talent.
Friedman also speculated over the future of Los Angeles Kings forward Vincent Lecavalier. Acquired in a mid-season trade from the Philadelphia Flyers, the 35-year-old has been reborn with the Kings, tallying 10 goals and 17 points in 37 games.
The Flyers agreed to pick up half of Lecavalier's $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2017-18. At the time of the trade, his agent claimed he would also retire at season's end. Given his improvement with the Kings, Friedman wonders if he'll change his mind.
Lecavalier declined to comment, but given the Kings limited cap space for next season, he'll put them in a bind by staying. Removing his $2.25-million cap hit frees up valuable space to re-sign pending UFA power forward Milan Lucic. Unless the Kings can shed salary elsewhere, they probably can't afford to keep Lecavalier beyond this season even if he wants to return.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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