Earlier this month, Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr wrote about the solid season that Jimmy Vesey was having. Since Tom’s article, not much has changed for Vesey — and that’s a good thing. Currently, he’s on pace for a 44-point season, which would crush his previous single season best of 28 points in 79 games. In other words, things are looking up for the former Hobey Baker winner.
Vesey is 25, so he’s far from being a prospect, but he’s still young enough to potentially have a place in the Rangers rebuild. However, his future with the Rangers is rather uncertain. After the 2019-20 season, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent. That fact alone makes him a candidate to be dealt before deadline day this year or next.
First, let’s identify what Vesey’s role could be in the Rangers rebuild. It’s no secret that the Rangers have a dearth of prospects who can score on the wing, which should make Vesey a great candidate to be a placeholder until some kids are ready. Unfortunately, there’s no prospects in the system right now that fit that bill outside of Vitali Kravtsov, who will be 19 on Dec. 23. With any luck, that situation will change after deadline day and the 2019 NHL Draft, but we aren’t there yet.
This season he’s played primarily on the third line with Brett Howden and Jesper Fast. It goes without saying that you need some experienced players to play with prospects and help them adjust to the NHL game. And there’s some evidence that Vesey has had a positive influence on Howden. If you want to read more about that, make sure to re-visit Tom’s article where he gets into the numbers behind the Vesey-Howden-Fast line.
This season Vesey has continued to something that should make him a desirable asset to Stanley Cup contenders — he’s scored goals at 5v5. Vesey is second on the Rangers with six goals at 5v5 this season and his 0.83 goals per 60 at 5v5 is third on the Rangers behind Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. Last season, 14 of Vesey’s 17 goals were scored at 5v5, which put him on par with some noteworthy wingers in the league including Alexander Radulov, Micheal Ferland, Jakob Silfverberg, Adrian Kempe, and Brandon Saad.
It’s also interesting to look at how Vesey compares to other forwards, especially wingers, in 5v5 goals after his first 192 games of NHL hockey. Since his rookie season in 2016-17, Vesey has scored 31 goals at 5v5. Some of his peers who have comparable production in a similar amount of ice time include Max Pacioretty, Ryan Hartman, Jason Pominville, Richard Panik, and Nino Niederreiter. That’s an interesting group that also happens to include a few players who have recently been traded.
Vesey compares poorly to Pacioretty, Hartman, Pominville, Panik, and Niederreter in shot share and expected goal differential, but his 11.8 shooting percentage is by no means anomalous which is one of the reasons he’s right on par with his ixGF.
Tom made a key observation about Vesey in his article from Dec. 7 when he said that the 6-foot-3 left winger “pretty much is what he is” at this stage of his career. And for some teams, a player like Vesey could look enticing when the trade deadline approaches.
The bottom line is that Vesey knows how to score goals, especially at 5v5. For some general managers who think they’re behind the reins of a Cup contender, Vesey could represent scoring depth and a big body. He also has the upside of being more than a rental, with a $2.275 million cap hit through 2019-20. Vesey also excels at drawing penalties, has no real injury history, and has a dozen games of playoff experience.
Of course, Vesey won’t be the only scoring winger that buyers will be considering in February. Here’s a list of some of the pending UFA wingers (including their salaries this year) from teams that are currently outside of the playoff picture.
Note: Dom Luszczyszyn’s Playoff Chances for The Athletic was used as a guide to determine the teams with the lowest chances of making the playoffs.
- Mark Stone ($7.35 million): 39 points (16 goals) in 35 GP.
- Gustav Nyquist ($5.5 million): 31 points (9 goals) in 36 GP. NTC.
- Ryan Dzingel ($2.1 million): 25 points (13) goals in 33 GP.
- Anders Lee ($5 million): 25 points (12 goals) in 34 GP.
- Alex Chiasson ($650k): 19 points (15 goals) in 29 GP.
- Jordan Eberle ($6 million): 17 points (7 goals) in 34 GP.
- Marcus Johansson ($4.75 million): 15 points (6 goals) in 31 GP.
- Wayne Simmonds ($5 million): 14 points (10 goals) in 33 GP. M-NTC.
- Richard Panik ($2.8 million): 10 points (6 goals) in 31 GP.
- Troy Brouwer ($850k): 9 points (7 goals) in 32 GP.
The list above doesn’t include pending UFAs who primarily play center like Matt Duchene and Brock Nelson, but it does give us an idea of some of the other wingers who could be on the block. And, of course, we should remember that Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes could/will be on the market.
Trying to determine what Vesey would bring back in a trade is difficult. But we can look at some recent deadline deals to help give us some context. Here are a few deals that involved wingers from the last two deadlines.
Of the trades in the table above, the only player who had term left on his deal was Tomas Tatar and he was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights — a team with an abundance of early round draft picks. Ryan Hartman was a pending RFA when Chicago dealt him to Nashville the season after he scored 19 goals in 76 games. Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Thomas Vanek, Viktor Stalberg, and Patrick Eaves were all rentals.
Considering that this projects to be a career year for Vesey, it’s not unreasonable to assume he could bring back a package like a second round pick and a middling prospect. Again, much of that will depend on the teams who are buying and what they are looking for. It’s also worth mentioning that it makes a lot of sense for the Rangers to sell high on Vesey. But that doesn’t mean that Jeff Gorton should settle on whatever he can get for the winger if the price isn’t right.
Vesey might not be the best scaffolding to build around, but the Rangers likely wouldn’t lose much if they decided to move him next season instead of this year. After all, there aren’t any young, scoring wingers in Hartford who are itching to get into the lineup. However, there could be one or two young centers who might get their best opportunity playing wing with the Rangers next season. That, too, is something to consider moving forward.
Data via Corsica.hockey, naturalstattrick, and salary information courtesy of CapFriendly.com