Rangers need to lock up Jimmy Vesey for an extension

SUNRISE, Fla. — Sunday marks the day NHL general managers can begin negotiating extensions for players operating on a one-year contract.

This is the time, then, for Rangers general manager Chris Drury to be proactive and lock up Jimmy Vesey for 2023-24, after he has exceeded expectations by leaps and bounds on the one-year, $750,000 deal he signed when making the team off a training camp professional tryout.

“I don’t think it’s in my personality for me to approach them about another deal, but it would be great to have something in place,” said the 29-year-old, who has gone through the last two summers soliciting tryout offers, first getting one from the Devils.

“Pardon my cursing, but it was so [effing] stressful day after day waiting for an update on where I stood. It got to the point where I thought about looking at my options overseas.

“But I’m not going to focus on contract stuff. If it happens, it happens. But I think I’ve played well enough that I wouldn’t have to be in that same situation next summer.”

Jimmy Vesey #26 of the New York Rangers skates against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG PAINTS Arena on December 20, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Jimmy Vesey has earned his place within the Rangers this season.
Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Vesey competed for, and earned, the fourth-line spot with penalty killing duties, which he held last season for the Devils, and which deadline acquisition Tyler Motte held for the Rangers before his departure as a free agent.

But a funny thing happened to Vesey on his way to filling that role. After opening night, the once-and-current No. 26 instead played a top-nine role in every game he had played until Thursday at  Tampa Bay, when he skated on the fourth line with Sammy Blais and Jonny Brodzinski.

“To be honest, it still feels like a demotion, to some extent, when you see that,” Vesey said. “But only for a second. It doesn’t affect my approach or attitude in the slightest.

“I didn’t expect to play as much as I have and where I have. It’s been nice to be up there. I think I’ve been solid and done the job on the penalty kill, so whatever they need, that’s why I’m here. I want to contribute in any way I can.”

Indeed, Vesey, who was a healthy scratch for the sixth game of the season, has skated with centers Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck 22 times. He will line up on the right side with Filip Chytil in the middle and Alexis Lafreniere on the left on Sunday against the Panthers.

“I want him to be the same player no matter what line,” Gallant said. “The same as Barclay Goodrow, he plays the same game.

“We’re still looking at different combinations. Obviously [Vitali] Kravtsov and all those kids, we haven’t seen a lot. We want to give him some opportunities in the right spot and hopefully [Kravtsov] will take advantage of them.

“Some of those young guys are a work in progress. Does Barclay Goodrow deserve to be on the fourth line? With the numbers he’s put up and the way he’s played and made lines better, no he doesn’t,” Gallant asked and answered. “We’re still trying to build on that.

“I’ve said, it’s never been a perfect lineup. I’m trying to win games every night. You try to fill different spots. Jimmy Vesey has played really well sometimes with the top guys. I want him to be an important player. He’s one of those guys in the mix who can play anywhere.”

The seven-year  veteran winger has six goals and six assists in 36 games, though he has gone without a point the last five contests.

“I say it every year, there are some chances I’d like to have done more with and scored on, but overall I think I’ve played well,” said Vesey, who had played the first three years of his career as a Ranger after signing as a free agent out of Harvard in 2016. “I’m pretty happy with the way it’s gone.

“I was thinking the other day that I’ve been a lot happier being here. I never wanted to leave.”

There is no reason why Vesey should have to leave after this season. The Rangers could see to that in the coming weeks.