We’re going through what has been the quietest Penguins off-season in recent memory.
You’ll have that when you bring back all but a couple pieces of a team that won the Stanley Cup, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t decisions that could the make the club better. For example, Jim Rutherford and his staff were among the first teams to court forward Jimmy Vesey.
Vesey, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA hockey player in the country last season, became an unrestricted free agent Monday. He is the latest to use a clause in the league’s collective bargaining agreement to get out of signing with the team that drafted him – the Nashville Predators in 2012 – and hit the market setting up what can be dubbed as Vesey-mania.
This mid-August frenzy has seen celebrities and other athletes from New York such as Jerry Ferrara, who played Turtle on the HBO show "Entourage," Noah Syndergaard of MLB’s New York Mets and Muhammad Wilkerson of the NFL’s New York Jets take to Twitter to try and convince Vesey to choose the New York Rangers who were on his list of meetings.
He limited that list to seven teams, which included the Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Buffalo Sabres and Penguins.
As evidenced by the teams in question, Vesey’s desire is to stay somewhat close to home. He grew up in the Boston area, which gives the Bruins a solid chance at landing his services. His father is a scout for the Maple Leafs, which had some thinking that they he would sign there. He spent the last six weeks talking with the Sabres, who acquired his rights from the Predators in June.
A statement from the Detroit Red Wings validated that desire when their assistant general manager, Ryan Martin, told MLive.com that Vesey stated a desire to play closer to home.
There are some that aren’t buying into the hype, but most that have seen him play feel that he will be a very good NHL player. He brings a unique combination of speed, skill and size that translated into 80 goals, 66 assists and 144 points in 128 career games at Harvard over the past four seasons.
He has shown an ability to stick handle in tight spaces and scores a lot of goals from in and around the net. He has quick wrists, an accurate and diverse shot arsenal and seems to have a very high hockey IQ.
At 6-foot-2, 201 pounds, Vesey would clock in at one of the bigger forwards on the Penguins roster, but can it really work out? Would he come to Pittsburgh? The decision seems to make too much sense for both sides.
Money isn’t an issue in the deal since the league’s CBA dictates that any potential contract he signs can pay him just $925,000 over the next two years, with a bonus structure not to exceed $2.85 million per year. That means it all comes down to intangibles such as playing time, role and special teams use now and in the future.
The Penguins likely would have the option of offering the chance to kick of his career alongside Sidney Crosby, something that would be enticing itself. Yes, Conor Sheary finished the season skating on Crosby’s left wing, but he averaged just .17 goals per game in the playoffs and had just 10 points. He also had four goalless droughts of six or more games and two of nine or more during the regular season.
That position will have to carry a heavier offensive load through the regular season, which makes Vesey an intriguing option. He also would be in line for power play time if he thrived on the line with Crosby. That might be enough intrigue to lead him to Pittsburgh.
They can offer proximity to Boston, a high-profile role and a chance to win right away, and then have the flexibility to sign him to a longer-term, bigger-money deal next summer after Chris Kunitz’s contract comes off the books.
Is that enough?
They’d have little difficulty fitting him under the salary cap even after signing Matt Cullen on Wednesday afternoon considering that they will get cap relief in the form of a long term injured reserve designation for Pascal Dupuis.
It all makes too much sense, which is the problem. Usually when something seems too perfect, it usually is.
The Bruins were slated to be the final team to make their pitch and the draw of playing in his home town could be too strong. A team like the Devils could put him beside newly acquired forward Taylor Hall in all of their marketing making him one of the faces of the franchise and the Blackhawks reportedly enlisted Patrick Kane to help sell their team.
It all comes down to what is important to the kid, but if he is interested, the Penguins would certainly relish the opportunity to add him to their mix.