BOSTON -- The New York Rangers have won the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes.
Vesey, 23, the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner, agreed on a two-year, entry-level deal with the Rangers, the team announced Friday.
Vesey became a free agent at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. In addition to the Buffalo Sabres, who owned exclusive negotiating rights from June 20 to this past Monday, Vesey entered the market with a list of seven teams he considered, and he met with those organizations over a two-day period in Boston, along with his agents, Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli.
Vesey said the history of the Rangers organization and its status as an Original Six franchise had a lot to do with his decision.
"This week I did do a lot of meetings, and it was definitely a tough decision, but myself, my agent and my family were very impressed with the Rangers in our meeting," Vesey said. "Talking with coach [Alain] Vigneault and [general manager] Jeff Gorton and Chris Drury, I was really impressed with those guys, and I just thought that New York was somewhere I could play and hopefully stick in the NHL.
"The thing that jumped out at me was they seemed to really want me, and from talking to them it seemed that they really needed to have me in their lineup and it seemed like they believe in me, so that was something I was looking for, and based on our talks, New York was the right fit."
During the process, it was clear that Vesey wanted to play for a team that would give him the opportunity to play in a top-six role. Asked where Vesey would fit into the Rangers' lineup, Gorton said it's too soon to discuss that.
"It's hard to say. He's got an ability to score. He can make plays. He's a very talented player. Where? What number? What line? I wouldn't want to go down that road and say yet, but he can come in and play," Gorton said. "He's going to come into training camp and do his best to try to fit in as high as he can in our lineup, and that's what we're looking for."
Vesey met with the the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he entertained the Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and finished with his hometown Boston Bruins, who gave the prospect an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of their new practice facility set to open this season.
During those meetings, the teams pulled out all the stops to woo Vesey.
The Blackhawks' Patrick Kane was in Boston for Chicago's meeting with Vesey. The Devils' Cory Schneider and Kyle Palmieri spoke with Vesey, too. The Rangers' Kevin Hayes, a Boston native, has talked with Vesey numerous times this summer while both work out together. The Islanders' John Tavares was also in Boston on Tuesday to make his pitch on behalf of the organization. When the Bruins hosted Vesey at the team's new practice facility, numerous Bruins players were in attendance to greet him. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby also reached out to Vesey.
The Sabres' Jack Eichel, who is a close friend and has been working out with Vesey all summer, also has given his advice about the Buffalo organization.
Vesey and his agents started discussing all the options on Thursday afternoon and finally came to a decision on Friday evening.
Vesey was originally drafted by the Nashville Predators in the third round (No. 66 overall) in the 2012 NHL entry draft. He played four seasons at Harvard from 2012 to 2016 and finished with 144 points in 128 games for the Crimson. He served as team captain his senior season.
The Predators expected to sign the 23-year-old prospect, but Vesey, by his CBA rights, elected to test the free-agent market. At the time, Nashville general manager Dave Poile said the organization already had received confirmation from Vesey that he would sign after his collegiate season concluded.
However, Vesey's agents said the organization was told before the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline that their client would not sign and thus become a free agent after Aug. 15.
Nashville traded Vesey's rights to the Sabres on June 20. Even though Buffalo had exclusive negotiating rights until midnight on Monday, the Sabres knew of Vesey's desire to hear other offers.