Coveted winger Jimmy Vesey became an unrestricted free agent at midnight on August 16th, and surprisingly, the New Jersey Devils are entering the sweepstakes. The 23 year old, fresh off out of college, won the Hobey Baker Award for being the best hockey player in the NCAA in 2015-16.
He tallied 46 points in just 33 games with the Harvard Crimson last season, and kept his team relevant. He has an ideal build at 6’1 and 195lbs, and carries a left handed shot.
New Jersey Devils in the Mix for Jimmy Vesey
The Devils are reportedly high on Vesey’s list. The other teams the youngster is considering are the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, and New York Islanders.
Devils’ general manager Ray Shero recently watched one of Vesey’s summer league games, and met with the prospect today.
Players like Vesey so rarely hit unrestricted free agency that it is foolish not to attempt to acquire them. Such young, NHL ready talents simply do not come along often. Gaining this sort of player almost exclusively occurs at the draft or via trade. Yet in today’s NHL, American college players frequently are up for grabs as they choose to test the market following their senior year, rather than signing with the team that drafted them.
For players like this, teams make room on their roster even if they have a surplus at their position. The value of the asset weighs greater in considerations than the team’s overall need.
While this answers why any team would take a shot at Vesey, the Devils have no chance of landing the point machine. Right?
The Devils enormous amount of cap space is useless because teams are limited to offering an entry level contract of $925,000 per year. They cannot outbid any big market teams that may have more appeal. This battle is all about recruiting.
The Devils’ Competition
The Bruins are the team Vesey grew up rooting for as a Massachusetts native. They encompass every kid’s dream. Vesey could easily swap crimson red for black and gold, and stay home in Boston.
The Maple Leafs and Sabres pitch the future. Vesey has played with Jack Eichel before, and has already spoken with Buffalo. They traded a third round pick to the Nashville Predators for his rights earlier this year. The Harvard product has connections to Toronto, and can envision dreamily about a future with Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner, and William Nylander in a city that loves hockey like no other.
The Rangers and Islanders offer a chance to play in New York, with super stardom a short reach away. He could play with John Tavares if he takes his talents to Brooklyn, or in the world’s most famous arena, if he goes to Midtown Manhattan.
Or Vesey could decide to land a few steps away from all of the gimmicks of the big apple, and sign with the Devils. They are the unlikely, and surprising presence on Vesey’s list, but have been reported as one of the top three teams he is considering currently.
It may be mind boggling that Vesey would pick downtown Newark in the shadow of the blueshirts and the big city, especially when playing for the Rangers is on the table. But there are plenty of reasons for him to be feeling devilish.
Flying Under the Radar
His agent, Peter Fish, told Josh Cooper of Yahoo that Vesey prefers to “fly under the radar”. This is ironic for a player stealing the summer limelight, but could signal why Vesey holds New Jersey so highly on his list.The Devils are perennial underdogs, but maintain success and class in the process.
“I think Jimmy can handle anything. I think he would prefer to be under the radar. He’s not the type of kid who enjoys necessarily being talked about all the time. He’s a good teammate, he’s a good kid. [Vesey is] pretty quiet and quietly goes about his business as a hockey player. He’s not afraid of the spotlight or anything like that. He’s a kid that probably prefers to fly under the radar a bit.” – Peter Fish
The Devils are referred to as a players’ organization consistently and never have the media issues that Toronto does. Legend Jaromir Jagr adored playing in New Jersey during his two years there, and called it one of his favorite playing locations of his career. Being that he has worn 8 NHL sweaters, this says a lot.
By choosing the Devils, Vesey would receive the benefits of living in the tri-state area without having to deal with a media circus.
Where he Fits
On the ice, the Devils provide the forward with the best opportunity to break through. He would gel with their current mold perfectly as a 23 year old, and potentially slide into a top-6 role. The upward trend of the team appeals to Vesey, as they are motivated to finally return to the playoffs. They are on the verge of being an everlasting force in the league, which is ideal for someone so young.
Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri, Adam Henrique, and Cory Schneider create a foundation that make the Devils very intriguing. Plus, Vesey has connections to assistant general manager, Tom Fitzgerald, through his parents.
Vesey is exactly the type of player Shero wants to accumulate on his roster. He is another ingredient to the “fast, attacking, and supportive” recipe.