What will the Chicago Blackhawks do if Jimmy Vesey doesn’t come to town?
Hockey fans from multiple teams have waited with bated breath today to see where prized college forward prospect Jimmy Vesey will sign. Seemingly half of the NHL’s teams have been in on Vesey, the reigning Hobey Baker winner of the NCAA.
As a quick recall: Vesey was drafted by the Nashville Predators, refused to sign, had his rights traded to Buffalo and is now working on finding his first NHL home.
All teams will be able to offer Vesey is an entry-level contract, which could earn him up to $3.775 million per year. The Chicago Blackhawks, reportedly one of the teams in on Vesey, don’t have a whole lot in the way of cap space at this point — a projected $2.4 million according to General Fanager.
But Chicago general manager Stan Bowman is a wizard with some of his offseason negotiations, so the team shouldn’t be ruled out.
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In fact, some outlets have reported the Blackhawks and New York Rangers are the final two teams in on Vesey, while others say this is inaccurate. Basically, it’s a bit of an unclear mess at this point regarding where Vesey will land.
However, there’s little doubt Vesey going to the Chicago Blackhawks would be beneficial on the ice in the immediate future. Here’s a projection from Blackhawks Breakdown that offers a fair assessment of Vesey’s immediate NHL value:
If you can’t access the above tweet, what it basically boils down to is an argument that Vesey could provide maybe 25-30 points in a non-top-line role this season. And this would be great for the Blackhawks, who got very, very little in the way of bottom-six scoring last season.
But what happens if Vesey doesn’t choose the Blackhawks? It’s not like they’re a lock to get him, anyway. The Detroit Red Wings actually couldn’t get a meeting with Vesey because he wanted to play closer to his home on the East coast. You might note Chicago is further west than Detroit.
Yeah, Patrick Kane sat in on the team’s meeting with Vesey, and Artemi Panarin reportedly might have as well (what he would’ve had to offer, with his limited English, is up for debate). But Vesey doesn’t have to sign with Chicago by any means.
So, what does the team do if he doesn’t ink in Chicago? The current roster lists 10 forwards, and two of them pretty much can’t score — Brandon Mashinter and Jordin Tootoo. Marcus Kruger didn’t pot a goal last season. Andrew Desjardins provides limited offensive production, and Richard Panik is honestly an unknown on the offensive end right now.
We’re talking about five forwards, then, who can consistently produce for Chicago, and one of them (Marian Hossa) seems to be fading from his previous form. That’s an ugly look for the forwards corps, no matter how much the big guns on offense and defense can produce scoring-wise.
The Blackhawks can’t stand pat if they miss out on Vesey. And that also means they can’t solely rely on youngsters coming up to provide the offense the team will desperately need in the bottom six. Sure, guys like Nick Schmaltz and Tyler Motte have great promise, but we haven’t seen them at the NHL level yet.
What the Blackhawks need to do if they miss on Vesey is go out and find another forward. It’s something I’ve been shouting at the wall all summer, but it’s going to be a must-have if Vesey Watch winds up a bust in Chicago.
The free agent pool, so far as guys who can have a decent impact, is slowly dwindling. Justin Fontaine, Gabriel Bourque, Jiri Hudler and Brandon Pirri are existing options who are probably the best of the bunch at this point.
It sounds as though the Vesey Saga may continue into the weekend, so the Blackhawks have even more time to play if they miss on the youngster.