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Jimmy Vesey looking at 'small number of teams'

Will talk to Sabres but plans to enter free agency Aug. 15

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With July 1 come and gone, the Buffalo Sabres are on the clock.

They can now sign forward Jimmy Vesey, one of the prizes of the free agent market, even though he won't really be a free agent until Aug. 15. And though Vesey and his representatives have made it clear he will not sign before that market opens to him, the Sabres are ready and willing to make their pitch.

Vesey told he will meet with the Sabres on Thursday in Boston to talk about what the future might hold for the Harvard graduate, and whether it could be as a teammate of friend and fellow Massachusetts native Jack Eichel.

This will be the first time Vesey and the Sabres are meeting in person since July 1.

Video: What does the future hold for prospect Jimmy Vesey?

Eichel and Vesey play together in the Foxboro Pro League, and the Sabres are hopeful the allure of playing with Eichel in Buffalo will be a draw for the 23-year-old left-shot wing. The two certainly looked comfortable making connections Wednesday in a game at Foxboro Sports Center in a summer league that features college, American Hockey League and NHL players where they have played together for the past four years.

That is part of what has the Sabres and their fans hoping Vesey will join what they're building in Buffalo.

The Sabres have this opportunity after trading a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to the Nashville Predators for the exclusive right to sign Vesey before Aug. 15. Vesey was drafted by the Predators with a third-round pick (No. 66) in the 2012 NHL Draft, but he decided to not sign with Nashville after his senior season at Harvard.

In approximately six weeks, Vesey's options expand to the rest of the NHL.

"I think we have a small number of teams that I think we'll really be focusing on," Vesey said. "So, Aug. 15 we'll start talking to them and see what they say."

The leading candidates to land Vesey appear to be the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, along with the Sabres. The Bruins are Vesey's hometown team -- he grew up in North Reading, Mass., and went to school in Cambridge -- and the Maple Leafs employ his father, Jim, as an amateur scout and drafted his brother, Nolan Vesey, in 2014.

Those will not be the only teams interested. Most of the NHL would jump at the chance to get the NHL-ready wing, who brings with him a big body (6-foot-3, 203 pounds) and a scoring touch. The Hobey Baker Award winner scored 24 goals and 22 assists last season and had 80 goals and 64 assists (144 points) in 128 games with Harvard.

The Providence Journal reported that Chicago Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman was at Foxboro Sports Center on Wednesday taking a look.

Vesey has time to decide, and it seems clear he will take it, even if he's willing to listen to the Sabres along the way.

"Free agency's done and I think most of the bigger names are off the board," Vesey said. "Now you've got to start sifting through teams and rosters and prospect pools and stuff like that. So I think I'm starting to get more and more excited as the days go on because I'm really looking forward to finding out where I'm going to be."

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