The New York Rangers won the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes last week, prying the Nashville Predators’ draft pick from 2012. Vesey happened to be Buffalo Sabres “property” when he hit free agency -- and I put quotations around “property” because the Sabres had but the faintest grasp on his rights.
I'm linking to the article so you can read it for yourself, because until you read it you won't understand the venom that comes from someone who is that mad online. With that said, please don't go after him on Twitter. It's stupid and you’ll never win.
Here's the main takeaways from the article:
1) This entire situation was a rarely seen circus.
2) There was rampant tampering going on.
3) No one looks good -- especially his agents.
4) Buffalo was somehow wronged in this process.
Let's start with the low-hanging fruit: This is not some rare white elk of an event. Kevin Hayes and Justin Schultz are the two most-recent players who utilized this CBA loophole (as is their right).
And if we're speaking of circuses ... During the Schultz sweepstakes Wayne Fing Gretzky was recruited by Edmonton to make their pitch to him. Paul Coffey was there, too, if we're being specific.
In THAT situation 26 teams went after him. Everyone was offering the standard ELC and the most bonuses they could fit under the cap. Teams were pulling out any and every bell and whistle they had in their arsenal. It dragged on. Teams were notified they were out in waves and eventually he landed in Edmonton.
If you want to call any of these situations a circus then that was a circus. By comparison the Vesey sweepstakes was a kid doing cartwheels in his backyard.
He met with a handful of teams starting on Tuesday. He did a first round of meetings then a second round the next day. By Friday the entire process was over. Four days.
That the media went crazy and hyped the whole situation up is not something Vesey can control. In that aspect things did get a little crazy -- but hockey news is tough to come by in August and people want their clicks. So be it.
Which brings us to the crux of the argument: Tampering.
Teams circling the blood in the water when it came to Vesey's impending free agency was not tampering. Opposing teams watching Vesey play in a summer league despite him being another team's property is not tampering (it's also not "not cool" although what General Manager would care about that anyway; this isn't high school). Everyone knew Vesey was becoming a free agent, and scouting potential free agents (even if still on another team) is quite literally an every day happening in the NHL. There’s genuinely nothing to see here. Move on.
Here's an example of tampering: The Rangers reaching out to Vesey in his junior year and saying "listen, kid, we'll make it worth your while if you refuse to sign with the Predators next year and hit free agency." That's tampering.
Vesey's agent talking about prospecting landing spots to the media after Vesey made it clear he was going to free agency despite Buffalo trading for his rights is not tampering. Here’s a quote from his agent back in June:
‘‘In our opinion, the only thing that has happened is now the Sabres have stepped into the shoes of Nashville for exclusive rights until Aug. 15,’’ Donatelli was quoted as saying. ‘‘However, at this time, it doesn’t change Jimmy Vesey’s intention to become a free agent on Aug. 15.’’
Does that sound like something someone who was set to sign in Buffalo until he’d been tampered with would say? And since we’re on the subject of his agents, drumming up hype around their client is something all good agents do. That's their, you know, job and all. But why let the facts get in the way of a good rant?
And of course, the reason why we're all here: Buffalo being wronged somehow in this process.
The process of moving assets for an impending free agent for their exclusive negotiating rights is always risky. Vesey owed Buffalo nothing for taking that risk — as seen by his agent’s quote above. There's a reason why teams shy away from doing this with NCAA free agents who utilize this loophole -- mainly because in a month or two the player will have FULL control over their future. Why would they lock themselves down before that opportunity comes around?
If Buffalo traded for Vesey because they knew he wanted to stay in Buffalo thanks to some inside information/conversations -- Vesey and Jack Eichel are close friends and share the same agent -- then guess what? THAT would be tampering. Funny enough, Harrington didn’t seem to have an issue with that at all when the Sabres traded for his rights in the first place. Even going so far as to insinuate the Sabres should feel good at their chances to keep him. Below is the quote, my emphasis is in bold.
Vesey, 23, is close friends with Sabres center Jack Eichel and they are playing on the same summer league team in Foxborough, Mass. One of Vesey's advisors is Peter Fish, who happens to be Eichel's agent. Eichel and Vesey played together with Team USA's bronze-medal team at last year's World Championships in the Czech Republic ...
The Sabres almost certainly feel they'll be able to sign Vesey long before he becomes a UFA in August, and felt giving up one of their four third-round picks would be an easy price to pay to keep other teams away from him.
But had that happened Harrington wouldn't have put on this song and dance about how Vesey is average, stupid despite going to Harvard and how this was an embarrassment for everybody. Also funny how Vesey isn’t referred to as “he’s not Eric Lindros who the hell does this kid think he is?” back when he could have stayed in Buffalo. Instead he was Jimmy “80 goals in four years at Harvard” Vesey.
No, had Vesey had chosen Buffalo Harrington's narrative Sunday morning would have been about bowing down at this loophole that landed the Sabres a coveted free agent. But since that didn't happen, he's relegated to opening his window and screaming into the wind about how unfair the process really is. So be it, he’s just exercising his rights.
But remember that Buffalo tried to take advantage of this situation, too. Do you think the Predators wanted a lowly third round pick for one of their top prospects? Imagine what Vesey would have been worth at the deadline if he didn't make his plans clear to the world? So, yeah, Buffalo tried to extort Nashville here for their own gain. It just didn’t pan out for them so now it’s a problem.
Speaking of, there's the only party in this situation who has the right to be angry: Nashville. And not even because Vesey utilized this loophole, but because (as they claim) that was the opposite of what he made the team believe his intentions were. He and his agent deny this, for what it's worth.
Buffalo wasn't wrong to do what they did, either, for what it’s worth. See, general managers should be taking risks and trying to make their team better, no matter how "not cool" it might be. They tried to make their team better just like all the other teams who competed for his services.
But they lost, so the entire process is sour grapes.
It's laughable to see someone who abhors blogging come to the plate with something like this. To say it comes off like an angry Sabres fan venting to his buddies at the bar might be a kind way to look at the situation. In reality it’s crying over spilled milk from a “not fan.”
Regardless, this situation is not overly rare, didn't feature tampering and didn't wrong Buffalo.
Unless you can't put your fandom aside when penning a column for your local newspaper.
Welcome to New York, Jimmy. You’ve done nothing wrong and have already pissed off someone immeasurably for your actions. You’ve already fit in.