Jimmy Vesey, vessel of vengeance against NHL management

BOSTON - JANUARY 29: Harvard University senior captain Jimmy Vesey skates out of the pre-game huddle before his team plays Princeton University at Bright-Landry Hockey Center in Boston on Jan. 29, 2016. (Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Jimmy Vesey has the right to play wherever he wants after Aug. 15. It’s a right afforded to him by the collectively bargained labor rules for the National Hockey League. He had every right not to sign with the Nashville Predators this season, just like he had every right to not sign with them last season, opting to finish his degree at Harvard as a senior.

"They were awesome about it," Vesey said at the time. "I think I have a really good relationship with the organization. I talked to [director of player development] Scott Nichol, [general manager David Poile and assistant GM Paul Fenton] quite a bit throughout the whole thing, and they were really understanding, since I go to Harvard, that the degree is so invaluable; they understood why I'd want to go back. They were great about it."

The Predators supported him. They had him at their development camps. They remained in contact with him. Nichol would meet frequently with him, bringing him up to speed on what the Predators were doing, talking about the future.

As the months and weeks passed, talk about his future started increasing. His father was, after all, a scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs who, after all, had also drafted Vesey’s younger brother. The Boston Bruins were, after all, a team in proximity to Harvard and Vesey's favorite team growing up, with a general manager in Don Sweeney who played four years there – just like Vesey did.

So Poile and the Predators upped their ante, even though Vesey had given no indication that he’d test free agency: a top six role straight out of college, perhaps even a top line role with Ryan Johansen; and, in the process, the chance to burn a year of his entry level contract.

And again, Vesey indicated to that he would join the Predators after Harvard’s season concluded. "Our confidence level is based on us drafting him, us having a good relationship with him, us spending time getting to know him and hopefully being part of the reason in helping him in his development," said Poile in February.

That confidence continued through the NHL trade deadline, where the Predators stood pat on adding a top six forward. “The biggest thing in this trading deadline is that we did not want to give away Vesey’s position on our team," Poile said.

Why? Because, again, every indication was that Vesey was signing.

As Poile said on Monday night:

"His dad had told me, had told (Predators coach) Peter Laviolette, Scott Nichol, Paul Fenton, that his son was going to sign with us. And Jimmy himself told Paul Fenton prior to the trade deadline, which was an important time for us because it was our last opportunity to change our team.”

And then he didn’t sign.

Vesey’s camp wouldn't allow the Predators to have a meeting with all parties at the same time – the player, the father and their reps. On Monday, they indicated that he wasn’t signing with Nashville, and was testing free agency.

"It’s a bizarre situation," Poile said. "This is the first time I’m going to say this in my career as a general manager — I clearly believe that Jimmy has received bad advice and bad counsel. A player usually goes to free agency in order to increase his leverage and to benefit financially, and that will not be the case here."

Can a kid change his mind? Sure.

Can a family change its mind? Of course.

But is it an absolutely terrible look for Vesey and his family to have gone this far down the road with the Predators, to the point of a verbal agreement as late as the trade deadline, and then pull the rug out from them?

Completely. It’s the one part of this saga that makes me feel that the Preds were jobbed here.

This wasn’t Poile getting huffy because Jason Spezza wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause for Nashville but would for Dallas. This was justifiable anger that a young player they invested in for years had gone back on his word. It makes Predators look ineffectual, it makes Nashville seem undesirable and makes Poile look painfully naïve, to the point where he stayed out of the deadline arms race only to get snookered by a college kid a month later.

It’s embarrassing.

But also empowering, apparently, via tweets like these:

It’s a business. General managers make promises. They hand out contracts that literally say “we can’t trade you unless you say so.” Then situations change, GMs go back on their words, and players are having to tell their wives and children that they’re moving across the country, like, tomorrow.

As Buccigross said, it’s empowering to see a kid who finished his degree at Harvard have the chance to play wherever he desires, given the indentured servitude of young NHL players for a good portion of their early careers. If things break the right way, he could be wearing a Spoked-B and playing with Patrice Bergeron next season. That’s not too shabby for a Massachusetts native.

You just wish it didn’t involve leaving a flaming bag of poo on the doorstep of David Poile. All the Predators did was nurture his development, keep him looped in as a member of the team, support him as he returned to school and then offered the best possible circumstances through which to enter the NHL this season.

That Vesey turning his back on all of this gets celebrated is a reminder how unbalanced the power dynamics are in the NHL between management and players.


Greg Wyshynski is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at or find him on Twitter. His book, TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE PUCK, is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.