The Toronto Maple Leafs have added some more winger depth, signing 27-year-old Jimmy Vesey to a one-year, $900k contract.

Many Leafs fans will recall the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes from the summer of 2016 after the Boston native refused to sign with the Nashville Predators, who originally drafted him in the third round in 2012, at the end of his Harvard University college career. A Hobey Baker winner in 2016, Vesey chose New York, where he posted 16, 17, and 17-goal seasons in three years with the Rangers. Needless to say, it proved to be a hullabalo over a very average NHL forward and the whole saga drew far too much attention amid the slow late July – August news cycle in the NHL.

Most recently, Vesey spent 2019-20 in Buffalo, where he played third-line minutes without much power play or penalty killing time to speak of and tallied just 11 points (nine were goals) in 64 games. Those numbers are pedestrian, especially considering the Sabres gave him a run of opportunity on a line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart (he saw over 200 5v5 minutes TOI with Eichel, double that of Jeff Skinner).

Vesey isn’t a dynamic offensive player or a defensive stalwart. The 27-year-old hasn’t scored 20 goals or 40 points in his NHL career and is a laboured skater, but what he does offer is a little bit of secondary scoring punch thanks to decent hands, offensive instincts, and a powerful drag-and-shoot release.

The strange feeling about the signing: Vesey can’t play center, he doesn’t seem to offer much in terms of defensive or special teams value, and he doesn’t add a notable physical presence to the Leafs‘ forward mix. While he brings good size (6’3, 200+), he doesn’t play much of a power game. He’s been a player who can disappear into the background for lengthy spells, stringing together successive games where you have to check the scoresheet afterward to make sure he played. Best case, the Leafs might be hoping to put him to work with Barb Underhill to see if they can wring some untapped production out of the 27-year-old. After the expiration of his two-year deal signed by the Rangers worth $5.5 million (inked at the end of his rookie year), Vesey should be motivated to keep his NHL career alive.

The Leafs jettisoned Andreas Johnsson for cap reasons yesterday in exchange for Joey Anderson, meaning there is some space that opened up on the left wing (Vesey has played both wings, but shoots left). The aim here seems to be Vesey as low-risk insurance add — a player who has shown he can score a little bit at the NHL level in case rookie Nick Robertson isn’t ready to be an everyday player on the team’s third line, and should unknowns such as Alex Barabanov or Joey Anderson (could also include Fillip Hallander here) fail to really stake claim to a spot. It’s hard to see what clear need this fills, but competition rarely hurts, and the contract can be buried in the minors if Vesey isn’t able to crack the lineup full time.

Jimmy Vesey Scouting Report

from prior to the 2019-20 season via Gus Katsaros of McKeen’s Hockey:

Sizable, skilled, and rangy winger is a proactive shooter – heavy wrist shot – good release power and quickness .. lacks a high end stride and overall speed .. compensates with balance and agility .. quick pivots and cuts .. defensive work in progress .. pushed career highs into the mid-30’s after two seasons just under the 30-point mark .. could have exceeded tying his career high in goals after scoring consistently through the first three quarters followed by a precipitous fall three points over a full 20 games in the final quarter .. followed his expected goals at 5v5 fairly close with the on-ice portion just a little bit under (-1.47) .. earned points on 70% of 5v5 on-ice goals – with 63% primary points share .. earned points on one-third of 5v4 on-ice goals (1-3-4) while underperforming expected goals by -3.34.

Jimmy Vesey Advanced Statistics: SKATR, RAPM, A3Z

Jimmy Vesey Statistics

2008-09Belmont Hill SchoolUSHS-Prep-----|-
2009-10Belmont Hill SchoolUSHS-Prep30131730-|-
2010-11Belmont Hill SchoolUSHS-Prep3223123530|-
2011-12South Shore KingsEJHL4548439152|Playoffs65382
2012-13Harvard Univ.NCAA271171825-11|-
USA U20WJC-20714523|-
2013-14Harvard Univ.NCAA311392214-6|-
2014-15Harvard Univ.NCAA373226582123|-
2015-16Harvard Univ. “C”NCAA33242246611|-
2016-17New York RangersNHL8016112726-13|Playoffs1214590
2017-18New York RangersNHL7917112820-18|-
2018-19New York RangersNHL8117183521-6|-
2019-20Buffalo SabresNHL64911201512|-