The hockey world is abuzz – as much as it can be in mid-August – over college star Jimmy Vesey hitting free agency on Monday after four seasons with Harvard. The 23-year-old Boston-area product capped off his amateur career by winning the coveted Hobey Baker Award, and teams are shuffling around hoping to get him to sign with them.
Vesey’s likely to get a two-year deal for the rookie maximum of $925,000, but the big question(s) are what kind of bonuses teams will try to entice him with and what role he’ll be promised. While reports are that the front-runners for Vesey’s services reportedly include Boston, the NY Rangers, New Jersey, Toronto and Chicago, I wouldn’t necessarily rule out the Flames’ chances to land him completely.
THE FIT FOR THE FLAMES
Stop me if this guy sounds too much like a Flames player: pretty big (6’1″, just shy of 200 pounds), a college star with impressive offensive production on an Ivy League team. And Vesey’s a left winger, a position that’s pretty thin for the Flames once you get past Johnny Gaudreau. Micheal Ferland, Hunter Shinkaruk and others aren’t established offensive options yet (and Matthew Tkachuk might not yet be NHL-ready), and adding Vesey would give the Flames another interesting option up front.
And let’s say that Tkachuk is NHL-ready: adding Vesey would give the Flames a bit of flexibility at even strength (and allow them to use Tkachuk on the right side potentially), while giving them additional offensive weapons on the power-play.
In terms of cap space, we won’t know precisely what wiggle room the Flames have until Gaudreau and Sean Monahan sign their new deals, but signing Vesey would likely bump somebody like Linden Vey down to the AHL. Vey’s NHL salary is $700,000, so adding Vesey would only increase the team’s cap hit by $225,000. Any performance bonuses earned by Vesey would be eligible to count against the salary cap next season if they pushed the Flames over the $73 million cap for 2016-17. (Oh, and there’s roughly $13 million of pricey contracts coming off the books after this season, so it’s unlikely that a bonus overage charge from this season would hamstring the Flames in terms of next season’s cap.)
In short? Vesey would give the Flames more offensive depth and they can afford him.
THE FIT FOR VESEY
The pitch from Toronto and Boston for Vesey is probably pretty similar: come play for a storied Original Six team in an important hockey market. What they don’t mention is that Toronto can be a pressure cooker for young players, and players playing in their hometowns can often get pulled in a zillion different directions and have trouble focusing on their jobs.
In Calgary? The pitch is probably like this: come play for an up-and-coming team in a city where hockey matters. This city is a secondary Canadian media market, so there’s attention but it’s less of a pressure cooker for players. The team is full of good young talent, and the opportunity to carve out a role on a team on its way up would give Vesey a great opportunity to cash in here down the line or even move to a different market to do so. Would he be able to do that in Chicago or New York?
Oh, and it’s a chance to potentially get top six ice time with Tkachuk and Sam Bennett at even strength, and potentially with Gaudreau and Monahan on the power-play. For a guy who’s likely to get an incentive-laden contract, knowing you’ll get time to play with good players and on special teams will likely be pretty important.
IS IT LIKELY?
We haven’t heard much about Vesey and Calgary. Granted, Brad Treliving does his business on the sly, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he signed here. That said, he’s a kid from out east who likely wants to play out east. But considering the composition of the Flames roster, their cap situation and the opportunities he could be provided while wearing the Flaming C on his chest, don’t completely rule out the possibility he could end up in Calgary.
I just wouldn’t bet on it.