Leafs fans in the know may just have August 15th circled in their calendar. That’s because it’s Jimmy Vesey free agency day, and many speculate that he’s the domino that needs to fall before the next wave of NHL roster moves and trades. So who is Jimmy Vesey?
The reigning Hobey Baker award winner (given to the top U-S college player) was actually drafted by Nashville back in the 2012 draft, but has remained unsigned. His rights were dealt to Buffalo in June before this year’s draft, but it appears the Sabres have been unable to persuade the 23-year-old left winger to sign before he becomes a free agent later this month. The Leafs have long been rumoured as a frontrunner for Vesey, who has strong ties to the club – his dad is a scout for the Leafs, and his brother was drafted by the Leafs two years ago.
@iamhockey1 Tue Aug 2
Vesey’s last two seasons at Harvard were magnificent – 56 goals, 104 points in 70 games and a plus-34. At 6-1, 195, he would add a bit of size at a position the Leafs don’t have a lot of depth at. If Vesey does sign with the Leafs, expect a bonus-laden deal similar to the one Auston Matthews signed. If he doesn’t, don’t expect disappointment among fans akin to that seen after Steven Stamkos resigned in Tampa, but I certainly think there would be some in the Leafs front office.
Vesey signing in Toronto would certainly mean a significant roster move before the start of the season, as the Leafs are up against the salary cap already — GeneralFanager.com (http://www.generalfanager.com) has the Leafs with just $55,000 in cap space, while CapFriendly.com (http://www.capfriendly.com) has them at $435,000. So what are the cap relief options?
Earlier this summer, rumour suggested the Leafs and Colorado were discussing on a multi-player deal involving names such as Tyson Barrie, Matt Duchene, James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Jake Gardiner. However, with Barrie signing a multi-year deal this past week with the Avs, that’s now unlikely. Unless the disputed $2.85M Jared Cowen buyout somehow proceeds, the quickest way to achieve cap relief expect is to see Bozak ($4.2M cap hit) or the forgotten Joffrey Lupul ($5.25M cap hit) moved, perhaps for a “conditional” pick similar to the one involved in the Jonathan Bernier-to-Anaheim deal.
From a purely PR perspective, it would be an easily saleable move to the fan base — one body (and perhaps a pick) in, one body out. While Bozak likely isn’t part of any future success scenario for the Leafs, his game did turn around under Mike Babcock last year, and he will have value to a team looking for a bottom-six forward upgrade. While JVR would be the asset that would bring the most return for the Leafs, I believe Babcock and the brass would like to see what he can do here over a full season – he and the Leafs were both playing pretty well when he was lost to injury last year.
Many observers expect that once Vesey signs, teams will begin moving to fill out their rosters, and another round of trades may be possible. The last half of August could be one of the most interesting in years for the NHL heading into next month’s World Cup of Hockey in Toronto.