NASHVILLE — Jimmy Vesey plans to test free agency rather than sign with the Nashville Predators, though general manager David Poile says he isn’t giving up hope of signing the forward selected in the 2012 draft.
“The opportunity remains very good here for him in Nashville, and I’m going to continue to try and see whether we can persuade him to change his mind,” Poile said during Nashville’s 4-3 loss to Colorado on Monday night.
Poile said the Predators had been given every indication Vesey would sign once Harvard’s season ended. The 22-year-old Vesey scored 80 goals in 128 games at Harvard, which was eliminated in the NCAA Tournament on Friday night. Nashville didn’t make a move at the trade deadline because Poile said Vesey told assistant general manager Paul Fenton he planned to join the Predators.
Then the team got a call last Wednesday that Vesey was thinking of free agency, which Poile called a “shocker” since Nashville was expecting to sign the forward. Poile said they have not been able to meet together with Vesey, his agents and his family since then. Vesey’s father is an amateur scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I clearly believe that Jimmy's received bad advice and bad counsel," Poile said. "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 August 15th than he could get from the Predators today. And he's going to sign for an extra year at the same money."
The Associated Press left a message seeking comment from Vesey's agent on Monday night.
Poile noted the investment Nashville has made in Vesey since taking the forward with the No. 66 pick overall. Vesey has taken part in three development camps in Nashville, and Scott Nichol, the team's director of player development, has been in contact with the forward weekly during his senior season at Harvard.
The Predators had been talking about a contract and even about transportation for Vesey to join them in Nashville once his season ended. Poile says they made it clear Vesey had a spot on one of their top lines waiting along with the chance to play for a Stanley Cup along with the chance to burn a year of his entry-level deal by signing immediately. That would allow Vesey to reach both restricted and unrestricted free agency a year sooner.
But going to free agency allows Vesey his choice of NHL teams. Poile said there's no financial benefit to going to free agency after they had talked a lot about money.
"For them to say money doesn't mean anything, that doesn't add up to me," Poile said.