Murray’s Gamble

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According to all involved, the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes should be over very soon, perhaps as early as today. A myriad of articles have been written guessing which team will win and thereby sign the Hobey Baker winner to his rookie contract that will span three years at a cap hit of just under a million dollars (and north of $3M with bonuses).

In case you’ve been living under a rock, you know the deal: Sabres GM Tim Murray traded a third round draft pick for the right to talk with Vesey before every other team had the chance; to be first in line.

GMTM made that deal even as Vesey had made it very clear that he intended to wait until the August rights deadline had passed, giving him complete control over the decision to join the team of his choice. There was no chance that an offer from Buffalo was going to prevent Vesey from entertaining other pitches.

But Vesey isn’t going to come to Buffalo just because he is somehow impressed that GMTM threw away a pick just to be first in line. If Vesey comes to Buffalo, it will be because he wants to play with rookie sensation Jack Eichel and be a central building block of an up-and-coming team, having nothing to do with the order he that he talked with teams. A week from now, he might not even remember that order.

Vesey is a smart kid; a 23-year-old Harvard graduate. He is going to make the deal that is best for him; the deal that any parent would want for his/her child. He knows that the average NHL career is about 5.5 years and most players retire before their 28th birthday.

Surely he knows that only 11 of the last 34 Hobey Baker Award winners were good enough to have NHL careers. It is in his best interest to go to the team that gives him the best chance to maximize his opportunity. If he chooses not to call 1 Seymor Knox III Plaza his professional home, it will be with an educated opinion, and a grand perspective. If he chooses not to be a Sabre for the upcoming season, he is not a villain.

If Vesey chooses to come to Buffalo, it will gloss over the fact that GMTM is the heel in this situation. A third round pick has value and the team got nothing for it. Close scrutiny of the history of the draft shows that only 17% of third round picks play greater than 200 games in the NHL (18% of second rounders). That means that while the odds might be against it, third rounders do play, and sometimes play quite well.

In the last 15 years, roughly two third round-picked players per year have had-or are having-quality careers, ie; Shayne Gostisbehere and Colton Parayko drafted in ’12 and Anthony Duclair, drafted in ’13. In fact, Vesey, himself, was a third round pick (66th overall).

Again, GMTM didn’t trade for Vesey, only the opportunity to be first to talk with him. If the Sabres become the team that we all hope that they can be, they cannot make missteps like throwing away draft picks.