By Sean Hartnett
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Coveted free agent Jimmy Vesey has made his list and is vetting it twice.
The former Harvard standout officially became an unrestricted free agent at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday and has started meeting with interested teams.
Vesey reportedly met in Boston with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Islanders and Devils on Tuesday. The Rangers, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks are expected to greet the 23-year-old left wing on Wednesday. Having previously held his rights, the Buffalo Sabres have already made their pitch.
Location is clearly an important factor in Vesey’s decision-making process. The Detroit Red Wings made a push for Vesey, but did not make the Massachusetts native’s shortlist due to his preference for playing close to home.
“We did our best,” Red Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin told Ansar Khan of MLive.com. “We spoke to his agent about depth and opportunity. He said he preferred to play closer to home.”
No team can offer Vesey more than a two-year term and a maximum salary of $925,000 plus additional performance-based bonuses. With money not being a factor and location being important but not the driving force, Vesey’s choice will come down to which franchise offers him the best chance of thriving in a top-six forward role and healthy special teams minutes.
Agent Peter Fish told the Associated Press on Monday that a decision could come as early as Friday or Saturday. Whichever team succeeds in landing Vesey is going to gain an NHL-ready talent at a discounted price. Vesey finished his senior year at Harvard with 46 points in 33 games and won the 2015-16 Hobey Baker Award.
Vesey has the ability to be an asset on the power play. He collected six man-up goals and 14 points during his senior year. Vesey plays a 200-foot game, has good vision on the rush and possesses a nasty backhander. He effectively uses his 6-foot-3, 203-pound body in traffic and has a knack for winning battles in the corners. His speed allows him to get to loose pucks quickly.
Whoever wins the Vesey sweepstakes is going to get one heck of a promising talent capable of developing into a well-rounded, two-way power forward with big goal-scoring upside.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey