Monday night, Jonathan Bombulie of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that the Penguins are planning on meeting with coveted college free agent Jimmy Vesey. That report was confirmed by TSN’s Darren Dreger Tuesday morning when he said Vesey would be meeting with them to hear their pitch.
Vesey won the Hobey Baker Award while he played college hockey for Harvard, scoring 80 goals in 128 games. He was drafted four years ago by the Nashville Predators but chose not to sign with them. They traded his rights to the Buffalo Sabres, but Vesey stuck to his guns and as of midnight Aug. 16, became an unrestricted free agent.
The Penguins aren’t considered a favorite to sign him but they will definitely put their best foot forward. And should Vesey chose them, it could be a really good deal for both sides.
Some things never change with the Pittsburgh Penguins and one of them is the need for top-six wingers. It’s something that pops up every year and this year is no different. The “HBK line” of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel is likely to stay intact for the regular season, so the Penguins will need other players to step up and play with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Jimmy Vesey would be a great player to put into the top six alongside either center since we don’t know how the young rookies of last season will play during a full season with the team.
He can make a good impact on the team and he can solve the left winger problem again for the Penguins this season.
Another reason why this could be a fit for both sides is because the Penguins can actually afford him.
Pittsburgh is always up against the salary cap each season because of their high-priced superstars, but they’ll be able to sign Vesey if they land him. Because of his age, he’s still only eligible for an entry level contract. His base salary can’t exceed $925,000, but he can sign a deal with a lot of bonuses that pushes his cap figure up to three million.
The Penguins will also be getting some cap relief after next season, as Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis’s contracts come off the books as does the rest of the salary they retained in the Rob Scuderi deal. There’s also a very good chance that goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who makes $5.75 million, will be traded since the expansion draft is next summer.
Money shouldn’t be as big of a problem as in years past.
This signing would also give the Penguins another prospect on the wing which is something that they have lacked over the years but are now getting a lot more of.
Daniel Sprong will be out most of the season recovering from surgery, and it looks like Jake Guentzel is very close to joining the team as he’s arguably the best forward prospect in their system right now.
This spring, the Penguins could ice a lineup including Sprong, Vesey, and Guentzel which makes a slick Pittsburgh attack just even more dangerous. With that kind of youth infusion and Crosby and Malkin still well in their prime, the Penguins window for the Cup is still wide open.
While the hype around Vesey may have inflated expectations, he definitely could step right in to the Penguins roster and make an immediate contribution.