When it was announced that Sabres General Manager Tim Murray had acquired the negotiating rights of 23-year-old winger Jimmy Vesey back in June, fans in Buffalo Sabres were ecstatic. The reigning Hobey Baker Award winner was selected in the third round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Nashville Predators, but went onto make a name for himself at Harvard University before informing the Predators that he would not be signing with the team.
The Sabres traded a third round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft in exchange for Vesey’s negotiating rights, becoming the only team that can negotiate an entry-level contract with the second generation player until August 15th.
Although Sabres’ fans should be upset that Vesey isn’t coming to the Queen City, this may actually end up being a blessing in disguise.
While Vesey does have the potential to develop into a solid NHL player, the Sabres already have a number of young players with an arguably higher ceiling. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart could be two of the best players in the league in five years time, and although having Vesey play along them would be nice, it could cause cap issues in the near future.
Buffalo now has a potential spot on offense that they could give to a younger player eager to make a splash. That spot could be filled with eighth overall pick Alexander Nylander, a skilled player who, like Vesey, would fit nicely on Eichel’s wing. The team could also give that spot to Johan Larsson or Hudson Fasching, two players in their early twenties who have shown signs of promise throughout their young careers.
Of course, the Sabres could look to acquire any of the remaining free agents out there, such as Jiri Hudler or Brandon Pirri. While they may not fit in the top six, they’d certainly add to the depth of the offense.
If the Sabres wanted to fill out the top six with a more experienced player, they could give the spot to Tyler Ennis or Matt Moulson, two players who will undoubtedly be looking to erase their lackluster 2015-16 seasons from the minds of Sabres’ fans.
Ennis will need to prove that he is fully healthy and can compete at his old level of playing. Those are big questions. If he is unable to reach those two things, it’s even more reason for the Sabres to find some more forwards.
One last reason why Vesey signing elsewhere wouldn’t be a huge deal for Buffalo is that the Sabres already have a solid, up-and-coming offensive core. Buffalo’s roster is headlined by forwards such as Ryan O’Reilly, Evander Kane and recent acquisition Kyle Okposo – so even if Vesey signed with the team, he would likely be a secondary scoring option out of the gate.
Buffalo has a bright future even without Vesey, so Sabres fans shouldn’t be upset about missing out on a player that they were willing to welcome with open arms. Buffalo’s roster is one of the strongest in the Atlantic Division, so fans should stop dwelling on what could have been, and start getting excited about what is going to be.