As of early this morning, Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey is an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any NHL team he wants. As expected, many teams are interested in wooing the talented youngster out of Boston. The Trib's Jonathan Bombulie reports that the Pittsburgh Penguins want to get in that hunt as well.
The Penguins are one of a handful of teams with a chance to secure the services of the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner as he hits the open market.
Jimmy Vesey, a 23-year-old left wing who was named college hockey's top player after scoring 24 goals in 33 games for Harvard last season, was set to hit free agency at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Though they're not considered the front-runners to land him, the Penguins are among the teams that will talk with Vesey and his representatives this week, a source told the Tribune-Review. He is expected to make his decision by the end of the week.
For once, the young player has all the power. Darren Dreger reported yesterday that the "strong contenders" for Vesey were the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and New Jersey Devils. The Penguins have really never been floated by media reports as a top consideration.
But it never hurts to try, the Pens owe it to themselves to do their due diligence and reach out to Vesey now that he is a free agent. If he's more interested in playing for his hometown team (Boston), or with younger stars (Toronto, Buffalo) or prefers a big city (NYR) or thinks he could be the next Artemi Panarin (Chicago), that's on him to rightfully decide, a choice he's entitled to via the collective bargaining agreement.
The Penguins can obviously offer unique advantages of their own, since they're always in search of talented wingers to play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
As far as the finances go, we would have to cross that bridge when we get there. Pittsburgh can afford the max cap hit of $925,000 without making any moves, but Vesey's bonus structure will push his AAV to upwards of $3.7 million as the max salary and cap hit that he could actually have if he meets set bonus figures. The Penguins could always carry this over into 2017-18 as a bonus penalty (as Chicago has done in the past) but that is a risky habit that spends next year's dollars today and creates a future salary cap headache, which isn't ideal. Pittsburgh could also move to trade an excess player in an effort to clear space as well.
All of that is way off in the future at this point, however. Jimmy Vesey controls the all the cards, it's up to him as to where he wants to start his career. The "smart money" seems to be one Toronto or Boston, but we will see. Vesey's camp wanted to free agency to see what options were out there, and now that they've made it, Pittsburgh (and a lot of other teams) are surely interested. Now the ball is in the player's court to pick the team and city that he wants to start his professional career in.
Update: Everyone and their mother pretty much confirming that the Pens and Vesey will talk. Remains to be seen how it will go or how strongly he will consider Pittsburgh, but hey, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.
I believe the Pittsburgh Penguins will meet with Jimmy Vesey today.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) August 16, 2016
I can confirm that the Penguins will meet today with Jimmy Vesey.— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) August 16, 2016
Reports said Vesey would make a decision on Thursday-Friday. Until then, here comes the wild roller coaster ride of "leaders" and reports of which way he might be leaning. Hopefully it's over soon.