With the NHL off-season now in its dog days, notable trade and free-agent activity has slowed to a crawl. As a result, speculation over where promising free-agent prospect Jimmy Vesey could end up is garnering headlines.
Vesey, 23, is the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner. Earlier this year, the Buffalo Sabres acquired his rights from the Nashville Predators in hopes of signing him to an entry-level contract. However, Vesey is eligible for unrestricted free agency on August 15 and intends to test the market.
For the past two months, it was believed the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs were front-runners for Vesey's services. The college star is a Massachusetts native who grew up cheering for the Bruins. Meanwhile, his brother and father are employed by the Leafs.
As August 15 approaches, however, there are conflicting reports over where the Bruins and Leafs stand among the Vesey suitors.
The Boston Herald's Stephen Harris reports a source claiming the Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Rangers could be the finalists for Vesey's services. However, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty cites two sources saying the Bruins aren't among the three clubs the Vesey camp is leaning toward. He also notes the Leafs and Sabres have seemingly fallen back after being considered among the favorites.
Like Harris, Haggerty claims the Blackhawks and Rangers are thought to be the favorites in the Vesey sweepstakes. He reports the Hawks made a big push for Vesey, as the notion of playing with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews on a Stanley Cup contender is intriguing to the young winger. Vesey's agents also reportedly have a good working relationship with Rangers GM Jeff Gorton.
Harris notes a source claiming the Devils could be a dark horse contender. Haggerty's sources, however say the Devils are among the top-three, citing the Vesey family's ties to assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald and the club's promising future.
It's not just the Boston punditry suggesting the Rangers and Devils have a good shot at Vesey. NorthJersey.com's Andrew Gross reports the two clubs are rumored to be among those that could land him.
The team that lands Vesey won't be winning a contract bidding war, as he'll be signing an entry-level contract. Harris points out he'll be receiving nearly identical offers of two years at an annual base salary of $925K (including just over $92K each year as a signing bonus) plus the potential to earn an additional $2.85-million per season in performance bonuses.
In other words, the winner of the Vesey sweepstakes is the one that did the best job of selling the benefits of their franchise to the promising youngster, and his role within their roster.
The clubs that fail to land Vesey could consider other options to bolster their forward depth before training camp opens next month. That could spur some trade activity or further free-agent signings.
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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