Reigning Hobey Baker-winner Jimmy Vesey, 23, will become a free agent at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, and there is a short list of teams he will meet with before intending to sign a deal by week's end.
Vesey and his agents, Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli, will conduct interviews with teams in Boston on Tuesday and Wednesday. A decision is expected by the end of business hours on Friday at the latest, sources tell ESPN.com.
The New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs are strong contenders as Vesey, who played for Harvard, prepares for free agency, sources said. The Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Islanders and Boston Bruins are also on that list.
The Sabres, who hold his rights until midnight Monday, are still in play. The chance to play with good friend and budding NHL superstar Jack Eichel is a strong attraction. While Eichel has spent the summer working out and playing with Vesey in a league in Foxborough, Massachusetts, no doubt Eichel has been trying to sell the Sabres. But there are other local NHL players who have also been trying to woo Vesey.
Vesey has been playing with the Rangers' Kevin Hayes and his brother, the Bruins' Jimmy Hayes. No doubt both have been lending advice as to the advantages of playing in those markets. Many believe that Vesey, a native of Charlestown, Massachusetts, would want to play for his hometown team, the Bruins, and Boston is also one of those teams he would consider, but the Bruins would have to make a serious pitch to convince Vesey to sign.
New Jersey is an interesting landing spot. Under coach John Hynes, Vesey could be thrown right into the mix in every aspect of the game.
The defending Stanley Cup-champion Penguins are also on the list. Playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby is a consideration, but there doesn't appear to be room in Pittsburgh's top six for Vesey, especially with Conor Sheary most recently playing on Crosby's left side.
The Chicago Blackhawks are pulling out all the stops, too. GM Stan Bowman, along with other members of Chicago's hockey operations staff, has attended a few of Vesey's summer league pro games in Foxborough. Again, the lure of having superstars such as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane as teammates is a strong selling point.
A Maple Leafs team in an organizational rebuild behind coach Mike Babcock is also intriguing. It helps that Vesey's father, Jim, works as a scout for the Maple Leafs. Toronto is loaded with young talent, including the recent No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Auston Matthews.
Originally selected by the Nashville Predators in the third round (66th overall) in the 2012 draft, Vesey informed the Predators of his decision to test free agency after he completed his collegiate career last season. The Predators then traded his rights to the Sabres on June 20. Even though the Sabres have exclusive negotiating rights until midnight on Monday, Buffalo has known of Vesey's desire to hear other offers. However, discussions with the Sabres this summer have gone well.
The New York Islanders will also have a chance to make their pitch. GM Garth Snow has made his presence known at the Foxborough pro league this summer. Again, the chance to play with a superstar in John Tavares could push the needle Brooklyn's way.
Vesey is excited about the opportunity to hear what other teams have to say, sources say, but it will likely come down to which organization gives him the best opportunity to succeed in a top-six role, including special teams. The winner of the Vesey sweepstakes will sign him to an entry-level deal with a base salary of $925,000, plus as much as $1.925 million in performance bonuses.