The Buffalo Sabres took a big swing by trading a third-round draft pick to the Nashville Predators for the rights to negotiate with Hobey Baker Award winner Jimmy Vesey before he becomes an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15. Despite the best efforts of general manager Tim Murray, head coach Dan Bylsma and (probably) Jack Eichel to persuade him to sign in Buffalo, the Harvard winger says he plans to hit the market and meet with a short list of teams.
The list of teams interested in getting one of those coveted meetings will not be short. Vesey has been tabbed as an instant top-six forward. In fact, had he signed after college with the club that originally drafted him, the Predators would have inserted him directly into their playoff lineup. In his final two seasons at Harvard, he scored 104 points in just 70 games and was a plus-34.
One of the most interesting parts of Vesey's upcoming decision is that money is not a factor. He will play on an entry-level contract plus bonuses, which any team that signs him will be prepared to pay. So his decision will come down to which team has the best sales pitch. Will it matter more to Vesey to win this season or to build a future with other great players? How much does he value market size and TV exposure?
Let's look at the selling points and drawbacks of the teams we already know are on his short list and others that may come out of the shadows as contenders: