By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Will he stay or will he go? That is the question that cannot be answered by this year’s Hobey Baker Award winner, North Reading native and soon to be Harvard graduate Jimmy Vesey, until August 15th at the earliest.
In late March, when Vesey informed the Nashville Predators – who drafted him in the third round in 2012 with the 66th pick overall – that he would not be signing with them at the end of his senior year, the Boston Herald’s Stephen Harris reported that a source very close to the situation told him that the former Crimson captain would be signing with his hometown team, the Boston Bruins.
Both Vesey and his father Jim Sr., who had a cup of coffee with the B’s in his brief NHL career, quickly shot down the rumor. In fact, the proud papa went so far as to say would advise his son against starting his career with the team he spent his childhood rooting for.
“My advice, personally,’’ said the short time Bruin, “I’d like to see him start somewhere else as a dad. But who knows. There might be some changes in Boston. There might be a new coach, you don’t know.’’
At the time, in early April, the coaching situation with the B’s was still up in the air, with Claude Julien once more seemingly about to be shown the door for his team collapsing in the last month of the season for the second year in a row, and once again missing the playoffs. Now that general manager Don Sweeney has decided to retain his defense first, veteran friendly head coach, only Vesey himself knows if that is a positive or negative.
In comments made on Monday night, once again to the Herald’s Harris, the soon to be free agent said that “I think the Bruins will definitely be on my list of teams.” He also whetted the weary fan base of the Black and Gold’s appetite when he told Harris ““Growing up I was a huge Bruins fan. I wore No. 19 the last five years, which was inspired by Joe Thornton. He was always my favorite player. I saw the Bruins win the Stanley Cup in 2011. I think it’s any kid’s dream to play for his hometown team. I’m definitely going to want to hear what they have to say.”
Vesey, who is 6’ 1” and 195 pounds, is universally seen as a top six forward by scouts. By all accounts, his skating ability has gotten better as he has gotten older, and at 22 years old, he could make an impact right away for the team he chooses to sign with.
Such a get would be a coup for the Bruins, and especially Sweeney, who seemingly botched the handling of soon to be free agent Loui Eriksson at the trade deadline. Sweeney chose to hold on to Eriksson, and even went so far as to add to his fledgling squad at the deadline, dealing valuable future picks while choosing to get nothing for an expiring asset.
As it turned out, Sweeney’s additions – career journeyman forward Lee Stempniak and 35 year-old defenseman John-Michael Liles – were not enough to help his defensively deficient team secure a playoff spot in the wide-open Eastern Conference.
Now the B’s beleaguered GM has less chips in his satchel as he embarks on accomplishing the difficult chore of rebuilding his backend, a feat that will likely cost him both picks and prospects. To have a player with the potential that Vesey possess to fall onto his lap for only the low price of an entry level salary ($925,000), would be a godsend he and his organization so sorely need.
However, Vesey’s pulling a spoked-B sweater over his head come training camp in September is hardly a sure thing. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a strong contender as well for the goal scorers’ services.
First, they employ his dad as a scout, they drafted his brother Nolan – who will be a junior at the University of Maine next year – in the 2014 draft, and they currently hold the top pick in the upcoming NHL draft that will deliver a franchise altering player in the form of Auston Matthews.
Secondly, if given the choice of playing for a guy, who has had a history of letting his most talented players make the most of their gifts in Mike Babcock, or a guy, who will bury his most skilled forwards on the bench if they miss a defensive assignment, in Julien, who would you choose?
For a kid who professes to be such a big Bruins fan, don’t think he is not aware of the way Claude has treated talents like Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin – and to a lesser extent – Ryan Spooner and David Pastrnak. Let’s face it, for a young guy who is looking to make his bones as a scorer in the National Hockey League, there are few systems more restrictive than Julien’s winning games 0-0 favored approach to the game.
For Vesey, he will have over three months to ponder where he will put his puck skills to use next season. There is little doubt that the Bruins organization, as well as their fans, are hoping that his heartstrings will keep him home.