NEW YORK – The New York Rangers have been decently busy this off-season to “overhaul” the group that saw themselves knocked out in the first round of the playoffs this past season by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Rangers on this day got more exciting news as they were able to sign prized free-agent Jimmy Vesey. Vesey, 23, skated in 33 games with Harvard University this past season, registering 24 goals and 22 assists for 46 points, along with a plus-11 rating and six penalty minutes. He won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in collegiate hockey in 2015-16, becoming the fourth player in Harvard’s history to win the award.
The 6-3, 203-pounder was also a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award during the 2014-15 season, as he established collegiate career-highs in games played (37), goals (32), assists (26), points (58), and plus/minus rating (plus-23). Vesey led the NCAA in goals and goals per game (0.86), and he ranked third in the NCAA in points in 2014-15.
Vesey skated in 128 career collegiate games over four seasons at Harvard (2012-13 – 2015-16), registering 80 goals and 64 assists for 144 points, along with a plus-17 rating and 66 penalty minutes. Over his last two seasons at Harvard, Vesey recorded 104 points (56 goals, 48 assists) in 70 games, averaging 0.80 goals per game and 1.49 points per game over the span. Vesey’s 56 goals in 2014-15 and 2015-16 led all collegiate players over the two seasons.
The Vesey sweepstakes originally included seven teams, with the final two being the Chicago Blackhawks and Rangers. In a conference call on Friday night, Vesey touched on why he chose New York, “I was very pleased with the presentation. This is a great franchise, an original six team and it certainly was a tough decision.” The most impressive aspect of the meeting that was take in the meeting was former Rangers captain Chris Drury. “The way Chris performed throughout his career, I see myself in that way and he was very big in the presentation,” Vesey stated.
Many of the celebrity Rangers fans over the past few days have been taking to social media to court Vesey to come and play at Madison Square Garden. Some names included big time Rangers fan and WFAN radio personality Boomer Esiasan, actress Susan Surandon, Mets pitcher Noah Syndagaard. When asked about the celebrity mentions Vesey said, “I tried to stay off social media this past week but friends and family kind of told me what was going on so I found it kind of cool”.
The Rangers made it known they wanted Vesey. They pitched him on the fact that he can be the type of player that can fit in right away and can help the team. He’s very well known in regards to Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, both Massachusetts natives and Hayes a childhood friend. “I spoke to Hayes a lot,” Vesey said, “we work out together in the summer and he told me what it’s been like here in New York.”
When making his decision, Vesey did say he and his agents looked at each team’s rosters, depth charts and prospect pools to see where the chance of him fitting in would be. “I had a chance to look over the rosters and for me it was all about where I can plug in and play right away and I know there are no guarantees so I’ll have to work hard to stay up at the NHL level.”
By adding Vesey, the Rangers added to a roster that is trying to get younger, faster and cap efficient. “I know I’m not coming here to be a savior,” Vesey stated. As for general manager Jeff Gorton who was also on the conference call he felt confident in the meeting he and his staff had, “we have a lot to sell in New York.”
“He saw that we try to win each year,” the GM stated. “He has the ability to score and is a very talented player and we are happy to have him.” Gorton also agreed along the lines Vesey did when mentioning how Drury played an important role in the presentation. “It’s been very significant to us to have Chris. He’s been great, he’s a classy guy and is a good voice in the room.”
As far as the pitch itself there was a video package with highlights of New York with some celebrity appearances that Vesey nor Gorton wanted to dive into. Gorton felt Vesey liked the way he and coach Alain Vigneault connected and how the system can benefit Jimmy.
Gorton was then asked if he’s been satisfied by the off-season plan and how the team looks now and stated, “We never use the word satisfy, we feel we are team of youth and we are happy to get Jimmy but there is always room for improvement.”
The Rangers have had themselves quite the off-season and they have certainly gotten younger, faster and a little bit more dangerous. There is certainly a fresh new look to the Blueshirts and it will be exciting to see when training camps open.