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Have questions about Sabres' Vesey? Here are answers

The long holiday weekend was filled with soaking in the sun, relaxing in the shade and answering questions about Jimmy Vesey.

Is he going to sign with Buffalo? Is he really that good? Why could the Sabres lose him Aug. 15?

With the Sabres making a sales pitch to Vesey this week, the left winger is on the minds of many hockey fans in Western New York. Here are questions and answers about a player who has a degree in government and is presiding over intriguing NHL negotiations.

Question: Is he worth all the attention?

Answer: Yes, the 23-year-old from Harvard has the skills to make an immediate impact in the NHL. He won the Hobey Baker Award as the best player in college hockey after recording 24 goals and 46 points in 33 games. He was a runner-up in 2015 after putting up 32 goals and 58 points in 37 games.

Q: Don't Hobey Baker winners usually disappear after college?

A: Most fail to make a name in the NHL. From 2003 to 2013, only defenseman Matt Carle had more than marginal success. But the two winners before Vesey - Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau and the Sabres' Jack Eichel - have proved that elite college talent can translate to the pros. Vesey is an elite scorer with an NHL body at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds.

Q: Why is Eichel usually mentioned with Vesey?

A: The Massachusetts natives work out together in the Boston area during the offseason and play on the same line in a summer league. They also represented the United States at the 2015 world championships. The Sabres are hoping the appeal of skating alongside his friend brings Vesey to Buffalo.

Q: Will he sign with the Sabres?

A: The Sabres have a legitimate shot of landing Vesey. He and his representatives had been steadfast in their desire to test unrestricted free agency next month, but his agent told The Buffalo News last week they are "open to anything" in regards to meeting with the Sabres and signing a contract.

Q: Why would he become an unrestricted free agent next month?

A: According to Article 8.6(c) of the NHL's collective bargaining agreement, if a college player drafted at age 18 or 19 "remains a bona fide college student through the graduation of his college class, his drafting club shall retain the exclusive right of negotiation for his services through and including the August 15 following the graduation of his college class."

Vesey's four-year college career ended this spring. Nashville selected him early in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft, and he started at Harvard that fall.

Q: Why did Nashville get rid of him?

A: Technically, he got rid of Nashville. The Predators tried signing him after his junior season, but he wanted to return for his senior year at Harvard and get his degree. When Nashville approached him this spring with a contract and promised a spot on the top two lines of its playoff team, he declined and told them he'd become a free agent in August.

Q: Does that make him a problem to deal with?

A: No, although the Predators may disagree. They insist Vesey and his father, Jim, told the organization he would sign with them. Whether or not that's true, it was in Vesey's collectively bargained rights to opt for free agency. After getting over the sting of the snub, Nashville traded Vesey to the Sabres for a third-round pick June 20.

Q: Why would Buffalo give up a draft pick when it could have just tried to sign him in August for nothing?

A: By acquiring Vesey, the Sabres secured exclusive negotiating rights with him for nearly two months. General Manager Tim Murray and owner Terry Pegula believe they can show Vesey that Buffalo is a worthy landing spot as an organization and a city.

"We're excited about going down and having a chance to have a face-to-face chat and have a real good give and take with him," Murray said.

Q: Why would Vesey sign with Buffalo?

A: He is a winger who knows how to score. What does a winger need most? A center to feed him. With Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly presumably handling the middle for the next seven years or more, Vesey will have a star-quality center to set him up for goals. The more goals he scores, the more money he gets.

Q: How much money will he get?

A: Even if Vesey becomes an unrestricted free agent, his first deal will be an entry-level contract. Those have a maximum annual salary of $925,000, plus bonuses. He'll have $850,000 in attainable bonuses such as five games played and 20 goals. He can earn $2 million in other bonuses by ranking among the league leaders or winning Rookie of the Year.

Because he is 23, his entry-level deal will be two years in length. The following contract is when goals become a negotiating tool.

Q: Who else wants him?

A: The easy answer is everyone, but Buffalo seems to be vying most against Boston and Toronto. Vesey has said more than once that playing for the hometown Bruins would fulfill his childhood dreams. The Maple Leafs are contenders because Jim Vesey is an amateur scout for the organization and Toronto drafted Jimmy's brother, Nolan, in 2014.

Q: Does he add anything besides scoring?

A: The extra year of tutoring under Harvard coach Ted Donato helped Vesey learn the two-way game that's needed in the NHL. Vesey was also the captain at Harvard, so he has smarts and leadership ability.

Q: What else is worth knowing about him?

A: His last name is pronounced "Vee-zee." He speaks fluent Mandarin. He took up the foreign language in prep school and college because China is a major world economy.

Q: Do you think the Sabres will sign him?

A: Yes. Murray and Pegula are passionate believers in the future of Buffalo and the Sabres, and their pitch should be appealing. Last week's signing of the NHL's top free agent, Kyle Okposo, is another sign the team is on the rise. It's possible Vesey waits until August just so he can talk with other teams, but the Sabres' head start should serve them well.

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