Uncle Bob (who else?) dropped this huge, though not completely surprising, news last night…
Jimmy Vesey, arguably the NHL’s top prospect and 2015 Hobey Baker finalist (hockey’s Heisman for you non-puckheads), opted to go the free agent route this summer rather than sign with the Nashville Predators, who drafted him in the 3rd round in 2012. And it caused his GM-that-will-never-be David Poile to lose his shit to the local media.
Poile says that before the trade deadline, Vesey told Assistant GM Paul Fenton that he would be signing with the Preds, as well as Vesey’s dad telling various members of the Nashville organization the same. So per the Preds, that altered their deadline approach as they figured they be dropping an NHL-ready, top-six forward into their line-up. Last week, they were making plans to sign him once Harvard got bounced from the tourney.
That didn’t happen and it isn’t going to. Apparently, Vesey changed his mind as is well within his rights under the CBA. And Poile has every right to be pissed if he was given word that the player was coming. But he really did need to tone it down with presenting his obvious case to the media (“he’d get top-six role, playoff time, and burn a year of ELC”) and saying Vesey got “bad advice and bad counsel”. I’m not sure, “Don’t sign with a small market, budget team that can’t ever get over the hump and have your pick of 29 other suitors instead” is awful advice. Maybe Vesey just doesn’t want to play for Nashville (and I don’t blame him). Poile was also dumbfounded that this wasn’t gonna benefit Vesey financially in any way, which assumes the player is only motivated by money in the short-term. But this isn’t the first time he’s said eyebrow-raising things to the media.
Here’s the thing: it’s been Vesey’s contention all along that he wants to graduate from Harvard (as well as being a life goal since HS). He comes from solid, blue-collar stock and has an opportunity to leave his mark where families from Charlestown historically haven’t (Townies drink next to John Harvard’s tomb as teens, not attend the university named after him). It’s a huge deal to an introspective kid who thinks outside the box a bit and is well aware there is a lot of life after hockey. Leaving for the pros now means that he doesn’t get to do what he’s set himself up for in his teens—graduate from Harvard in the spring of 2016. Sure, he can take satellite and summer classes later to get the sheepskin. But it won’t be the same. There’s no graduation ceremony for your family when you do that. To hear your name called in your cap and gown and be the first in your family to graduate from the best fucking school in the land. And you only graduate from Harvard once (unless you’re wicked, wicked smart and go to grad school, too). He’s so close to that goal, his only loyalty is to himself and not the Predators. He’d rather get his degree than get bounced in the first round by LA or Anaheim. Sucks for Poile. We’re so used to seeing the teams treat players like cattle that when essentially the opposite happens, people actually get upset at the player. But the business is a two-way street and I’ll never begrudge a player for exerting his leverage.
Now, where will he go? I keep hearing people say “Toronto” because his father’s a scout there and the Leafs drafted his brother, a Maine Sophomore, in the sixth round of the 2014 Draft. Um, that means he still has to play for the Leafs, who are light years behind the Predators. There are so many scouts with kids who play, that’s not really a tangible reason. And a shitload of things would need to fall exactly into place to assure he and his brother ever played together there; it’s very far from a guarantee. I just can’t see a scenario where a highly-sought after player will sign with one of the league’s worst teams for a several year rebuild.
The next obvious team is the Bruins because everyone wants to come here, right Bs fans? But here’s the thing, the Bs will have as good a crack as anyone at him. Local kid. Lotta Harvard ties. He’d look pisser in a top-six role here. And another thing to consider: his good pal Matt Grzelcyk is Bruins property and in same boat as Vesey (can become a FA if he chooses). Maybe the two kids who started off skating together as toddlers a stone’s throw from North Station decide to both play for the team they grew up watching. That would certainly be a hell of a story. And not really a reach either.
He may also end up somewhere far from the glare of Boston and constant barrage of ticket requests. Whatever way it turns out, he won’t need to get fitted for cowboys boots and 10-gallon bucket now as he becomes one of the biggest free agent stories of the summer. Should be fun.
Elsewhere last night…
Hey Logan, wanna lick?