Sabres' Vesey is looking forward to playing for Buffalo

Jason Botterill likes Jimmy Vesey's five-on-five scoring

Paul Hamilton
July 01, 2019 - 7:36 pm

Photo: Brad Penner - USA TODAY Sports

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Buffalo, NY (WGR 550) - I think Jason Botterill was very smart not to jump into free agency and get the Sabres stuck with another bad contract. In the past few days, he’s made two trades while giving up nothing but draft picks, and he made minor depth signings for Rochester.

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Friday’s trade with Vegas for defenseman Colin Miller was a great move and on Monday, he acquired Jimmy Vesey from the New York Rangers for a third round pick in 2021.

The Sabres owned Vesey’s rights out of college when Tim Murray traded a third round pick to Nashville for his negotiating rights. Many fans are incorrectly saying that Vesey thumbed his nose at Buffalo and the Sabres, but he did nothing of the sort.

Vesey’s advisors told all NHL teams that the winger would be going to free agency so it would be a waste of time to acquire his rights. Murray didn’t listen and traded for him anyway. Vesey actually said back then that he was very impressed with Buffalo’s presentation, but he was going to do what he said he was going to do all along, become a free agent.

Vesey always dreamed of being a Ranger and he stayed true to that. That in no way, shape, or form is a snub.

Vesey didn’t want to be traded, but he knew it was a possibility, “Just hearing the rumors and talking to my agent, I knew that being traded was a possibility and I thought maybe at the draft, but when that didn’t happen I waited for this week.”

Now that he’s here and back with friends Jack Eichel and Evan Rodrigues, Vesey is happy to come to Buffalo, “I’m really excited to be part of the Sabres and I look forward to contributing to the team and see what we can do.”

Vesey has spent three years in the NHL and is already 26-years-old. He said things are different than they were three years ago, “I think the whole time I had nothing but positive things to say about the organization and the pitch they made to me, but at that point three years ago, I had made up my mind I was going to go to free agency and at that point, I thought New York was the best fit for me.”

Vesey has been very consistent in his three seasons scoring 16, 17 and 17 goals. I would guess he has a chance to get to 20 or so goals with Buffalo. Botterill likes that most of Vesey’s goals have come at even strength, “We like his size, his speed to get up and down the ice and I think his game has developed more of a two-way game over the last couple of years as he was utilized in the penalty kill last year.

“I think the thing that really stands out for us is his ability to score at even strength. I think he’s had 16 even-strength goals in each of the last two seasons and has an ability to get to the front of the net, an area that we’re trying to improve on for the upcoming season.”

How Vesey fits in is anybody’s guess. I think a lot depends on where Victor Olofsson is in his development. Botterill said, “We would view him as a top-nine forward. What we like with the trade is it just gives Ralph more options.

“I think the fact that a player such as Conor Sheary can play both wings, a player such as Alex Nylander has played both wings. Here’s just another player in Jimmy that comes in to our organization, can help us with even-strength scoring and just give us different options throughout the lineup.”

Botterill really didn’t get into free agency, which is good because there were a lot of bad contracts signed on Monday. Botterill said, “We were certainly aggressive in free agency and trying to talk to certain players out there. We did key in on a couple forwards that we felt would be good additions to our group. There wasn’t a fit there so we turned our attention more to the trade market.”

Botterill has a philosophy about free agency, and I think he’s spot on, “Look, there’s always going to be need for talent out there and for skill. There was a lot of talk about this free agent market. I have been on record making the comment that I thought there was certainly some high-end skill. I didn’t know if there was a lot of quantity with this group. We talked a lot about it in our negotiations with Jeff, what is the replacement value? How difficult would it be to replace him? It’s not surprising some of the contracts that have been handed out. It’s interesting to see how some people get upset with it. At the end of the day, we’re in a cap world. There’s a certain amount of money that is spent to the players, and team’s divvy it up the way they like it to.”

Botterill has been getting calls about Rasmus Ristolainen. He said, “We’re always having trade discussions and discussions on improving our team. It’s going to continue to happen throughout the summer. I know a lot of times there’s always a big push on July 1. You get to the question, ‘Well, are they done?’ Well, there are still good players available in free agency that we’ll continue to evaluate and we’ll continue to have discussions with teams to see if there’s ways to improve our team. Because as much as there’s a big push for July 1 at noon, there’s still a long time until we play our first game to start the season off.”

Botterill said he’s had brief discussions with agents about his restricted free agents, but he’ll talk more with them starting in the next few days.

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