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Having the Chicago Blackhawks enter your rookie free-agent courtship is like making time with a woman at a bar just as Leonardo DiCaprio and his posse roll up next to her. “Hey, can I buy you a drink and fly you to Ibiza and have you met my friend Spider-Man?”
This isn’t to say the Blackhawks are going to land NCAA wunderkind Jimmy Vesey when he can officially sign on Aug. 15, just that they’re on the short list and clearly in the hunt. GM Stan Bowman took in summer league games while Vesey skated in Foxboro.
From Scott Powers at The Athletic, speaking with agent Peter Donatelli:
“He really has no idea where he’s going to be,” Donatelli said. “It’s going to be up to the teams to sell him. … Yes, [we have criteria], but we’re interested in what the teams say rather than telling the teams what they have to say.”
Donatelli said Vesey will likely meet with 2-3 teams a day over a few days in Boston in August. From there, Vesey will either trim his list or make a decision. “We’re not going to pigeonhole ourselves in how we’re doing it,” Donatelli said.
The Blackhawks have the cap space to sign him, as Vesey is only going to count at $925,000 max against the cap because of his rookie deal. So the potential is there for the reigning Hobey Baker winner to join Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and the rest of the Hawks.
But the potential is there for Vesey to join other teams as well:
Simply put: This would be a chance for Vesey, a self-proclaimed “homebody,” to stay home. To be around friends and family. And, most of all, to wear the uniform of the team he’s rooted for in his 23 years in the planet.
While Vesey didn’t go through the entire list of teams, he did freely admit that the Bruins will be one of them that will get a chance to win him over next month.
“I’ve said it all along that Boston is definitely on my list of teams that I’d like to talk to. It’s a team that I’ve rooted for all my life, and it’s a team that I watched win the Stanley Cup in 2011,” said Vesey, who finished with 24 goals and 46 points in 33 games with the Crimson as a senior last season. “I’ll definitely be meeting with Boston in August.
“I was a huge Joe Thornton fan growing up. He wore No. 19. I wear No. 19. He was my favorite player. I got to know Torey Krug a little bit through playing with him at the world championships last year. So it would be really cool to play with Torey and put on the Bruins jersey. It’s the team that I’ve watched for my whole life.”
Some guys don’t want to play in their hometowns. Vesey doesn’t appear to be that guy.
The Sabres hold his negotiating rights and have met extensively with Vesey twice this summer. The second meeting had GM Tim Murray, coach Dan Bylsma and Jerry Forton, the Sabres’ assistant director of scouting who helped recruit Vesey while with Harvard. Both sides said it went well.
The lure of the Sabres is the chance to play with his friend and summer league buddy Jack Eichel, on a team on the rise. But will that be enough?
New York Rangers
Now this one is interesting.
The Rangers are desperate for young talent, and cheap talent at that, having traded away several high-end draft picks in recent years. Vesey would be a perfect fix.
Craig Custance of ESPN.com added some fuel to this fire, noting that Vesey’s primary agent Peter Fish is tight with Rangers GM Jeff Gorton:
“I know Jeff very well. I have a lot of respect for Jeff,” Fish said. “Certainly, whenever I have a free agent in any aspect of hockey, Jeff would be one of the first people I call.”
Fish also represented Chris Drury, who is the Rangers’ director of player development, and remains close with Drury.
It’s all about connections. Which brings us to…
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs have been in the mix for Vesey since even before things broken down officially with the Nashville Predators. His father is a scout with them. They drafted Vesey’s younger brother. And Lou Lamoriello knows his way around acquiring NCAA talent.
Dollars to donuts, I’d say that the Bruins land Vesey. But every option here is a good one for a potentially dynamic young scorer.