NHL free agency officially opened last Friday, but one of the most talked-about names still available won’t hit the open market until next month.
That would be former Harvard winger Jimmy Vesey, who is set to become a free agent Aug. 15 after declining to sign with the team that drafted him, the Nashville Predators.
Nashville traded Vesey’s rights to the Buffalo Sabres last month, and the 23-year-old told NHL.com’s Amalie Benjamin he plans to meet with the Buffalo brass Thursday in Boston. Regardless of how that meeting goes, however, the North Reading, Mass., native remains committed to testing his worth in free agency.
“I think we have a small number of teams that I think we’ll really be focusing on,” Vesey told NHL.com on Wednesday. “So, Aug. 15 we’ll start talking to them and see what they say.”
He added: “Free agency’s done, and I think most of the bigger names are off the board. Now, you’ve got to start sifting through teams and rosters and prospect pools and stuff like that. So, I think I’m starting to get more and more excited as the days go on because I’m really looking forward to finding out where I’m going to be.”
The Sabres’ pitch to Vesey surely will highlight the fact that Buffalo employs fellow Massachusetts native Jack Eichel, a friend of Vesey’s and one of the NHL’s most promising young centers. The Sabres face stiff competition from two other Atlantic Division clubs, however, as Benjamin lists Vesey’s hometown Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, and also the Sabres, as the apparent favorites to sign the 2016 Hobey Baker Award winner.
Vesey and Eichel currently play on the same team in the Foxboro Pro League, a summer circuit that plays its games just down the road from Gillette Stadium. The league is stacked with NHL talent — Jimmy Hayes, Brian Dumoulin, Johnny Gaudreau, Keith Yandle, Noah Hanifin, Charlie Coyle, Brian Boyle and Scott Darling are just a few of the participants — and also features a strong contingent of AHL, ECAC and Hockey East players.
Among Vesey and Eichel’s teammates are Bruins defense prospect Matt Grzelcyk, New Jersey Devils forward Bobby Farnham and Vesey’s younger brother, Nolan, a Maple Leafs draftee.
Thumbnail screenshot via YouTube