Jimmy Vesey decision leaves the Predators disappointed and empty-handed

The Predators own Jimmy Vesey's draft rights, but he is opting not to sign with the team and will instead test free agency this summer. Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

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What to make of Jimmy Vesey spurning the Nashville Predators?

Scott Burnside@ESPN_Burnside: There was a significant development on the college free-agent front Monday night, with TSN's Bob McKenzie reporting that top college prospect Jimmy Vesey has declined to sign with the Nashville Predators and will test free agency later this summer. The decision left Nashville GM David Poile fuming, because the Predators were quiet at the trade deadline in part because Vesey had given a verbal commitment to sign with the Predators when his Harvard team completed its college season, Poile told reporters Monday. The Crimson were ousted from the NCAA tournament over the weekend, but Vesey has apparently broken his promise. To me, it makes the young forward and his representatives look less than stellar. Sure, it's Vesey's right to go where he wants to go -- Toronto Maple Leafs, anyone? -- but misleading the Predators (if not outright lying to them, as Poile suggests) stinks. The problem for the Predators is that they were basically holding a top-six forward spot for Vesey, and a roster addition they'd counted on for a possible playoff run isn't available. I think the Predators are going to be a handful for whomever they face in the first round, but in theory they could have been even more dangerous had Vesey kept his word. Thoughts on this evolving situation, my friends?

Pierre LeBrun@Real_ESPNLeBrun: There was still obvious disappointment in Poile's voice when we connected on the phone Tuesday morning. The Preds' GM talked about how the organization had spent so much time the last few years with Vesey, in particular director of player personnel Scott Nichol. "Scott Nichol has been there virtually every single weekend with him,'' Poile said. "They would talk 2-3 times a week, go over clips. I mean, I'm upset, but Scott is devastated.'' The real gut punch here for the Preds is that they met with Vesey before the trade deadline, had dinner and never once got an hint that he wouldn't be signing with them after his college season ended. Had there been any indication he wanted to test free agency, Poile would have dealt his rights before the Feb. 29 trade deadline to get an asset back in return, not to mention maybe trade for another forward to help down the stretch. Nashville was keeping a forward spot open on this season's NHL lineup just for Vesey. "Obviously, something changed; I just don't get it,'' Poile said. He doesn't get it because only Nashville could afford Vesey the luxury of burning the first year of an entry-level deal by signing now and playing for the rest of the season. "It doesn't make any sense. I have no idea what Jimmy, his dad, his family, his agents, are thinking about. All they said was 'the lure of free agency.' What's the attraction? You get to pick your team [in August], I get that. But you could have told me that at any time. I don't understand the benefit here.'' Poile will try to convince Vesey's camp to change its mind, but it certainly sounds like a long shot now. You feel for the Preds here, who put a lot of time and effort into this kid. To see him sign with the Maple Leafs or Boston Bruins, or anyone else, will be a real kick in the teeth.

Craig Custance@CraigCustance: Until you get pen on paper, you can't assume anything, right? We're talking about a college kid. You know how many times I changed my mind about things when I was 22 years old? I'd like to hear the other side of the story here before judging Vesey, but I'm with you guys. I definitely feel for Poile who handles everything with class. There's plenty of speculation that Vesey will end up in Boston, which would be a coup for GM Don Sweeney as he attempts to pump young talent into the organization. Of course, Toronto is another obvious destination, because Vesey's dad is a scout in the organization and people tend to have a hard time saying no to Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello. The Predators took a risk at the trade deadline by not adding another forward, but let's not forget that their big move was to add Ryan Johansen. Anything else done at the deadline was just going to be gravy anyway. The worst thing here is that it looks like a valuable asset is leaving the organization without any real compensation. That hurts.

Joe McDonald@ESPNJoeyMac: Our ESPN colleague John Buccigross had a solid response on Twitter last night when asked about the Vesey situation. Bucci was asked to explain the "wack decision" and responded: "If you had 30 job offers after college that all paid the same money, would you like to choose where you work?" Per the CBA, it's Vesey's right to decide not to sign with the team that drafted him and instead become a UFA on Aug. 15. How about Boston? Sweeney is a Harvard guy, and Vesey is a Harvard guy who grew up just a stretch pass away from TD Garden. His agents are Boston-based too. Now, while it may be his right to sign elsewhere this summer, if he did mislead the Predators, that's a major issue. Poile told reporters Monday night the organization was ready to give him a roster spot in the NHL, and the Predators could use a spark from a talented young player like Vesey down the stretch and into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Even though Poile said he would continue to try to sign Vesey, I really don't see it happening, especially now. Let the bidding begin.

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