Jimmy Vesey, the outgoing star of the Harvard men’s hockey team, will reportedly test the National Hockey League’s unrestricted free agency period in August rather than sign immediately with the Nashville Predators.
Vesey’s representatives informed the Predators of the senior’s decision, first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, on Monday. Nashville drafted Vesey in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, 66th overall.
For the second consecutive year, Vesey had the option to sign and play with the Predators immediately after the Crimson’s season came to an end in the NCAA tournament. A year ago, however, Vesey elected to return to school for his senior season, and at least for now, he has declined the opportunity to join the team that drafted him once again.
Nashville General Manager David Poile held an impromptu press conference in the middle of the Predators’ home game with the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night to address Vesey’s decision.
“Very disappointing news obviously for the Nashville Predators, our fans, and our team,” Poile said.
After registering just 40 points over his first two seasons with the Crimson, Vesey exploded for 104 over the course of his junior and senior seasons, finishing as the nation’s leading goal scorer (32) in 2014-2015.
Vesey has also won back-to-back Walter Brown awards as the top American-born Division I hockey player in New England. He will find out Thursday if he has been named a top-three finalist for the Hobey Baker award as college hockey’s Most Valuable Player for the second year in a row.
Vesey’s decision came as a surprise to Poile, who said Vesey told Nashville Assistant General Manager Paul Fenton prior to the NHL trade deadline (Feb. 29) that he would be signing with the Predators. Poile also said he had not been told that Vesey was considering testing free agency until Wednesday when the organization received a call from Vesey’s camp.
“Up until a week ago Wednesday, I thought for sure we were going to sign Jimmy Vesey,” Poile said. “So this is a shocker.”
Vesey, however, sounded less definitive about signing with Nashville in an interview with TSN’s The Pipeline Show back in January.
"I have a great relationship with the Predators," Vesey said on Jan. 26. "They've worked pretty extensively with me over the four years since I've been drafted. They're at a lot of my games and have given a lot of feedback. So I have a great relationship with them and the organization, but right now I'm focusing on Harvard. Once my season ends, I'll kind of sit back and see if the Predators are the right fit."
Vesey could not be reached for comment Monday night.
Per the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, Nashville maintains “the exclusive rights of negotiation” for Vesey’s services through Aug. 15. And Poile said he has not given up hope on signing the senior prior to the deadline.
“Our relationship with Jimmy Vesey has been excellent for almost four years,” Poile said. “We have been a big part of his development, we’ve invested a lot of time, our relationship is good. The fit and opportunity remains very good here for him in Nashville, and I’m going to continue to try and see whether we can persuade him to change his mind.”
If Vesey remains unsigned after Aug. 15, the ex-Harvard captain can then begin negotiating with the other 29 teams in the league.
—Check TheCrimson.com for updates.
—Staff writer Jake Meagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MeagherTHC.
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