The Boston Bruins are a team heavily in the mix to bring home the Stanley Cup in 2019-20.
While they probably have a roster suited for the playoffs right now, there’s nothing wrong with making moves and potentially improving your odds in the long haul, as exhibited by the acquisitions of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson last season.
Neither of them played top-six minutes, but they seemed to be on the ice quite frequently for clutch goals or big defensive stands late. However, they were safe acquisitions with little-to-no risk outside of Johansson’s concussion history.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney needs to push the envelope a little bit, and this potentially means making a trade for a player who has a lot of potential but may not have tapped into that potential yet.
Perhaps a player who created a lot of media buzz when he was deciding who to sign with as he came off of his Hobey Baker-winning season at Harvard in 2015-16: Jimmy Vesey.
Vesey, now 26, has played about three-and-a-half years of fairly forgettable hockey to start his career. Starting out with the Rangers who, at the time, were hanging onto dear life trying to make a run at the playoffs, Vesey struggled to perform.
He scored 16 goals in his rookie season, and then 17 in each of his next two while increasing his point total each year, but overall he just wasn’t what the Rangers thought they were getting when they signed him in 2016.
In his three seasons with the Rangers, Vesey put up a minus-37 +/- rating, while also having an expected goals-for percentage at 46.4 percent, ranking him 21st among all Rangers players with a minimum of 500 minutes on the ice in that span.
In his 52 games with the Sabres this season, Vesey has contributed 18 points on eight goals and 10 assists, while also having a plus-15 +/- and an xGF percentage of 49.4 percent. While still not stellar, it does rank higher than Jack Eichel, and sixth (min. 500 minutes) on a Sabres team that features just two players north of 50 percent.
On top of that, Vesey also has a Corsi-For percentage of 51.4 percent, ranking second on the Sabres (min. 500 minutes) behind only Sam Reinhart. This means that the Sabres are controlling the puck more often than not at even-strength when the 26-year-old is on the ice.
However, why would the Bruins want him?
A lot of talk has come about the Bruins needing to acquire more skill of the offensive, with names such as Chris Kreider and even Taylor Hall before he was traded to Arizona bouncing around. The common theme, outside of goal-scoring prowess, is that they’re big-bodied guys. Vesey presents part of that being 6-foot-3, even without the bulkiness of a Kreider or a Hall.
However, those stats mentioned above, Vesey actually slides in very well with what the Bruins are looking for.
Back to Corsi-for percentage, Vesey would rank fifth among Bruins forwards (min. 350 minutes) and eighth overall. With Boston looking to spread out offensive firepower and maintain control of the puck when the likes of David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand are on the bench, adding a guy like Vesey with a high Corsi-for percentage would do wonders for that cause. Especially since he is three percent higher than Kreider’s, and comes at about $2 million fewer in terms of cap-hit.
Which brings us to the next important thing, the Bruins don’t have much cap space. According to Spotrac, the Bruins rank 21st in the league with an estimated cap of $1,955,398 remaining. Adding a guy like Kreider ($4.625 million cap-hit) versus acquiring a player like Vesey ($2.275 million) also softens the blow of what Sweeney would have to give up to make salaries work. Instead of needing to give up an important piece in Danton Heinen, the Bruins could look to cheaper alternatives.
Lastly, Vesey is set to be an unrestricted free agent at the season’s end. So if it ends up not working out, the Bruins aren’t going to be locked into his contract into the future.
Vesey was born and raised in Boston and was heavily on the Bruins’ radar coming out of college. With a manageable cap-hit, as well as numbers that fall into the realm of what the Bruins are looking for, this trade makes a lot of sense for Don Sweeney and co.