Jimmy Vesey won’t be heading to Nashville in time for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Instead, he’ll graduate from Harvard this spring and sign with the NHL team of his choosing in the summer. Most importantly – according to advisors Peter Fish and Pete Donatelli – he won’t suffer any hardship after declining an offer from the Nashville Predators to get his pro career started immediately.
“The decision to become an unrestricted free agent was ultimately decided by what was best for Jimmy Vesey’s hockey career,” they wrote in a statement released Wednesday.
What has become abundantly clear is that Vesey’s decision not to sign with Nashville, the team that made him a third-round draft pick in 2012, was not motivated by business concerns. The allure of getting to choose the city where he would start his NHL career was strong enough to pass up an opportunity to make roughly $140,000 in signing bonus and salary over the next two weeks.
In airing his frustration about the way things turned out on Monday night, Predators GM David Poile told reporters: “I clearly believe that Jimmy’s received bad advice and bad counsel. A player usually goes to free agency in order to increase his leverage and benefit financially, and that will not be the case here because whoever he signs with, he's going to get less of a deal on Aug. 15 than he could get from the Predators today. And he's going to sign for an extra year at the same money.”
He went on to say that the decision could cost him “millions of dollars” – a notion the player’s representation disputes.
Fish and Donatelli note that if Vesey’s primary motivations were financial he could have signed with the Predators last year and been completing his entry-level contract now. Plus, they contend, he’ll be able to find a good spot to make up for lost earning time.
“A full analysis of his options was conducted,” their statement said. “Whether Jimmy will lose any money is speculative best. However, it is believed such a loss, if any, can be more than made up as a result of on ice and off ice opportunities in the city and organization of his choice.”
What this came down to ultimately was the simple fact that Vesey either didn’t like the fit with the Predators or didn’t want to live in Nashville. At least not more than, say, his hometown of Boston – the Boston Herald reported Wednesday that he intends to sign with the Bruins – or possibly Toronto, where the Maple Leafs employ his father, Jim, as a scout and drafted his brother, Nolan, in 2014.
That’s his prerogative.
By completing four years of college he had the rare opportunity to enter the NHL on his own terms. Come Aug. 15, he’ll be free to sign a two-year entry-level contract with any team.
You can understand the disappointment on Nashville’s end after spending the last four years charting Vesey’s progress and building a relationship with him. The Preds strongly believe the 22-year-old winger is good enough to jump immediately into a top-six role in the NHL and were prepared to guarantee him that kind of usage over the final handful of regular season games and into the playoffs.
Poile labelled it a “bizarre situation” and claimed that Vesey told assistant GM Paul Fenton he would sign in Nashville when they spoke at last month’s Beanpot tournament. That alleged conversation happened before the Feb. 29 trade deadline and played a big role in the team’s decision to stand pat.
“It was our last opportunity to change our team,” Poile told reporters Monday. “We told him if he was going to sign with us, we were going to keep a position available for him, and he told us that he was going to sign with us.”
That was also refuted by Vesey’s representatives.
“This contention is not accurate. The Nashville Predators were informed prior to the trade deadline that they should conduct their business as they saw fit and that the potential of signing or not signing Jimmy Vesey should not be a factor in their decision.”
At this point everyone should basically agree to disagree. There isn’t anything to be gained by either side from airing more dirty laundry.
While Poile has said that he planned to continue his pursuit of Vesey, the release of Wednesday’s statement will almost certainly put an end to those ambitions.
The only real option left is trying to deal his rights in June – an admittedly difficult task to accomplish with free agency looming – and attempt to get some kind of asset back for the organization.
If Vesey ends up being as good as the scouts are forecasting, he’ll forever be the one that got away in Nashville.