It’s been no secret for months that the Buffalo Sabres might make a good NHL home for soon-to-be free agent winger Jimmy Vesey, and now the Sabres have made a big move to land the coveted college hockey star. The Sabres dealt one of their four third round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft to the Nashville Predators for exclusive negotiating rights with the former Harvard captain, and will have until Aug. 15 to get a deal done with the big, skilled winger.
It was a win for the Nashville Predators that recouped their third round pick investment in Vesey that appeared to be wasted when the youngster decided he wasn’t going to sign with them, and now it gives Buffalo nearly two months to woo the Hobey Baker winner. If Vesey were to sign in Buffalo, GM Tim Murray said on Monday he’d immediately be installed into a top-6 role, and that gives one an idea of how impactful the 23-year-old could be to an NHL team right off the bat.
Sources had told CSNNE.com as long as two months ago that the Sabres would be prominent in the Vesey sweepstakes and that the forward’s lifelong friendship with Jack Eichel could potentially sway him toward signing with Buffalo.
Vesey’s agents were quick to say Monday that their client still planned on taking things to free agency in mid-August, and that is consistent with their close-to-the-vest approach since things got a bit unpleasant during their Nashville breakup.
"Jimmy's intent at this time has not changed and is prepared to become a free agent on August 15,” said his agent, Peter Donatelli, to inquiring reporters.
But it also seems a little suspect that Buffalo would waste a third round pick if they don’t think they have the inside track on Vesey, and both Vesey and Eichel are already skating together in a summer league in Foxboro that kicked off last week.
So where does this leave the Bruins?
Well, it’s a positive that Vesey still plans on playing out the process all the way to official free agency. So there’s still a chance for the Black and Gold to swoop in if Vesey’s camp starts to get cold feet just as they did midway through the process with the Predators.
But it’s clearly a black mark on the Black and Gold that they didn’t have the assets to secure Vesey’s rights after trading away their own 2016 third round pick for John-Michael Liles during a series of futile trade deadline decisions. Wasting draft pick assets on Liles and Lee Stempniak while failing to trade away Loui Eriksson for more draft pick assets has left the Bruins without as much ammunition as some of the other clubs, and that doesn’t even count the ridiculous 2017 third round draft pick price spent on Zac Rinaldo last summer as well.
Now the Bruins may be forced to up their ante in negotiations with Eriksson prior to July 1 if they feel Vesey slipping away from them, and continue a bad trend for any NHL organization: wasting draft pick assets, and spending big money on aging players with premium price tags.