Contrary to popular belief -- I was also wrong on this one — today is not Jimmy Vesey day. Today is simply Jimmy Vesey eve. The Buffalo Sabres will hold Vesey’s rights until 12:01 tonight (aka. Tuesday morning).
The Rangers are one of the teams on Vesey’s short list and they’ll be pitching themselves to the former Harvard superstar with the only financial advantage teams can offer in this situation: A bonus-laden contract. Chicago — another one of the teams on Vesey’s short list — can't really afford another max-bonus deal with Artemi Panarin; while the Rangers have free reign with no performance bonuses on the cap. It might not be the biggest factor in a decision, but it should help.
With that being said, it’s clear the Rangers think they have a legitimate shot at bringing Vesey to Broadway ala Kevin Hayes. And since the team has been granted an opportunity to meet with him, it’s hard to argue otherwise.
We’ve speculated a lot in this space about why Jeff Gorton hasn’t really addressed the defense. Outside of the Dan Girardi and Marc Staal issues, the Nick Holden acquisition by itself doesn’t make a ton of sense, and there doesn’t seem to be any room for Dylan McIlrath as currently constructed. Adding a logjam to a position where the Rangers needed to make room seemed odd, unless another move was coming with it.
So what is Gorton is actually waiting to see if the team lands Vesey before making a move to bolster the defense? Hear me out on this one.
Apparently the Rangers did try to move Rick Nash at multiple parts of the offseason — whether or not that’s a smart thing remains to be seen. During the draft it was a buyer’s market, and Gorton wasn’t blown away with any of the offers he got and refused to sell Nash for what he deemed to be a sub-par return. Why? Because even though the Rangers desperately needed the cap space, Nash is a top player in this league and his abilities on the ice aren’t exactly something the Rangers have in spades.
The Derick Brassard trade made sense because the Rangers got back a player of his caliber (if not more) on offense. They got younger and saved some cap space in the process. Brassard is closing in on 30, and his possession numbers were starting to do that dip.
Nash is a bigger animal to move, though. Not just because of his contract (he’s worth every penny) but Nash is easily the Rangers best three-zone forward, and his possession game would be sorely missed. As much as the fanbase thinks he’s soft or not clutch (crab people), losing him would leave an enormous hole — especially if he was used to pull up some defense help.
Does Vesey change that right away? Not really, but it might make moving Nash for a defenseman and not much else in the package easier to swallow.
The expectation is that Vesey can come in and add between 30-40 points right away. While that’s not going to help replace Nash’s offense (and does nothing for the defense), you can add Pavel Buchnevich to the 30-40 point expectation and combined the two might mitigate what the Rangers would lose in Nash.
From a defensive standpoint the Rangers obviously need the help, although I’m not sure what the plan would be in the event they’re keeping Staal and Girardi (from both a cap and actual playing standpoint).
That’s all to figure out for later, though. Maybe after the Rangers figure out if they’re going to win the Vesey sweepstakes.