Hobey Baker Award-winner Jimmy Vesey had high praise for the Sabres Wednesday night during an interview with Comcast Sportsnet New England – but again made it clear that he’s not signing with the team before he gets the chance to become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15.
Vesey met last week in Boston with General Manager Tim Murray, coach Dan Bylsma and assistant scouting director Jerry Forton, one of his freshman year coaches at Harvard. The Sabres own Vesey’s rights until Aug. 15 by virtue of their draft-week trade with Nashville.
“I thought it was a really good meeting. ... It was informative and I felt really comfortable talking with them,” Vesey told CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty after a summer league game in Foxborough. “They’ve been really good with me throughout the process.”
Vesey said he liked having the opportunity of sitting down with an NHL coach and general manager as a precursor to perhaps several interviews after Aug. 15.
“It was a good meeting to get a feel for what the process is going to be like,” he said. “We’re going to Aug. 15 like I’ve said all along, but to talk to a GM and a coach is going to give me an idea what to expect. ... They said to me they’re not trying to create a circus or anything like that and they’re going to leave me alone now. So I respected Buffalo throughout the whole thing.”
Vesey’s father is a part-time scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs and has said publicly he would prefer his son not stay home and play for the Boston Bruins. But Vesey seemed exceptionally eager to get a chance to talk to his hometown team, mentioning that he wears No. 19 because he’s a fan of former Bruins star and current San Jose standout Joe Thornton.
“I’ve said it all along Boston is definitely on my list of teams I’d like to talk to,” he said. “It’s been a team I’ve rooted for my whole life. I watched them win the Stanley Cup in 2011 so I’ll definitely be meeting with Boston in August.
“I’ve gotten to know Torey Krug a little bit playing with him in world championships last year. It would be really cool to play with Torey and put on the Bruins jersey because it’s a team I’ve watched my whole life.”
Vesey said he has relationships with several NHL players like Sabres’ center and current summer league teammate Jack Eichel. Any of them could turn into a key factor.
“It’s definitely on my mind a little bit,” he said. “It would definitely be a little bit more comforting to walk into a locker room and know somebody there.”
Vesey did say this won’t be a wide-open process when his free agency date rolls around.
“I think 29 teams would be a little bit crazy to meet with all of them,” he said. “We have a little bit of a short list going with me and my agent and family. We’re going to narrow it down as best we can and try to get through it as quick as we can once Aug. 15 comes.”
The Sabres have announced they have signed restricted free agent Marcus Foligno to a one-year contract. The 24-year-old posted career-highs in games played (75), goals (10) and points (23) during the 2015-16 season, tied his career high with 13 assists and had the best rating among Buffalo forwards at plus-4.
Foligno made $2,250,000 last season, the back end of a two-year deal, and will make the same salary for 2016-17. He developed into a key cog on the team’s dependable third line, playing left wing along with center Johan Larsson and right wing Brian Gionta.
The signing of Foligno leaves the Sabres with just two remaining NHL-level RFAs in defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and foward Zemgus Girgensons, and about $9 million left in cap space. The team is negotiating a long-term extension for Ristolainen, likely in the $5-6 million a year range.