What’s been dubbed #VeseyWatch on social media is over. Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey is heading to the bright lights of the big city.
The New York Rangers announced early Friday evening that they have signed the Harvard University product to a two-year, entry-level contract, ending a week of interviews with prospective suitors and speculation that captured the attention of hockey fans during what is normally a quiet time in the offseason.
Vesey was a third-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2012 but opted not to sign with the Preds. His rights were traded to Buffalo on June 20 for a third-round pick and he met with Sabres officials on July 7 in Boston. The Sabres kept in contact with Vesey through last weekend but were not one of the teams he spoke to once he became an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.
Vesey met with the Rangers on Wednesday and was the subject of several tweets from celebrity Rangers fans, imploring him to come to New York. Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson, former Giants defensive end Justin Tuck and ESPN anchor Linda Cohn were among those who tweeted at Vesey and pushed for him to sign with the Rangers. Actress Susan Sarandon and former NFL quarterback and New York sports talk radio host Boomer Esiason sent congratulatory tweets after the signing was announced.
Vesey is close friends with New York forward Kevin Hayes, a former Boston College player who signed as a college free agent with the Blueshirts in 2014 after spurning the Chicago Blackhawks.
“The thing that jumped out to me was they really wanted me and really needed to have me in their lineup,” Vesey said of the Rangers in a conference call with New York reporters Friday night.
Vesey had several other connections to the Rangers. His coach at Harvard, Ted Donato, is a former Rangers forward and Peter Fish, one of Vesey’s agents, is friends with New York General Manager Jeff Gorton. Former Sabres captain Chris Drury, the Rangers’ director of player development, was a Fish client. Vesey played with New York center J.T. Miller on the United States world junior championships team in 2013.
“Chris Drury was someone I was definitely impressed with during the meeting,” Vesey said.
Said Gorton: “It was an opportunity with a real good player that became available and help replace some of the depth we had in the past. He’s a pretty proud guy, very confident in his ability. ... I think he sees an opportunity to play and I felt we made a connection.”
Vesey met with Toronto, New Jersey, the New York Islanders and Pittsburgh on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he spoke with the Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and his hometown team, the Boston Bruins.
Reports circulated Friday that Vesey was choosing between the Rangers and Blackhawks but his camp rebutted them and, in fact, seemed to indicate the decision might extend into Saturday.
A couple of hours later, the Rangers announced they had completed the deal with Vesey on their verified Twitter account.
The Sabres play the Rangers here in newly named Key Bank Center on Dec. 1 and Feb. 2. They travel to Madison Square Garden on Jan. 3.