Published On: Sat, Aug 20th, 2016

How the Vesey signing impacts the Rangers

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Just when you thought the spotlight on Jimmy Vesey’s long-awaited decision couldn’t get any brighter, he chose the shiniest city in the world.

The 23-year-old Harvard product is heading to Broadway after signing with the New York Rangers on Friday, ending months of constant speculation.

While he may have broken the hearts of the several teams and fans courting his services, Vesey got the most out of his free-agent experience, and now everyone can shift their focus to how he’ll perform come October.

Where he’ll slot in

Vesey joins an incredibly deep forward corps in New York – especially on the left wing, where he’s expected to play – that includes the likes of Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, and the emerging J.T. Miller.

Mats Zuccarello, Jesper Fast, and Kevin Hayes, a longtime friend of Vesey’s, occupy the right side.

Slotting Vesey in the top six will require some tinkering, perhaps moving Nash to the right wing and Fast down in the order, but head coach Alain Vigneault surely has options.

In his final two seasons at Harvard, Vesey scored 56 goals in 70 contests, and it’s reasonable to believe the Rangers will provide him power-play opportunities to fully take advantage of his offensive capabilities.

Whether he’s in the top or bottom six, bringing in Vesey to a roster that’s added Mika Zibanejad, as well as veteran forwards Nathan Gerbe and Michael Grabner, over the offseason, could create one of the most potent attacks the Eastern Conference has to offer.

Top of the prospect pool

The instant Vesey put pen to paper with the Rangers, he became their best prospect.

Years of trading assets in pursuit of a Stanley Cup has left New York’s cupboard bare, and adding a potential top-six forward on an entry-level contract provides immediate help with virtually no risk.

Somewhat amazingly, the Rangers haven’t had a first-round draft pick since 2012, when they selected defenseman Brady Skjei – who made a pleasant impact in his brief stint with the club last season – 28th overall.

Along with Skjei, 2013 third-rounder Pavel Buchnevich is showing promise, scoring 37 points in 58 KHL games last season, but following those two, the Rangers’ development pool is incredibly shallow.

Will he be a difference-maker?

After four consecutive seasons of advancing past the first round of the playoffs, including two Eastern Conference finals losses and one Stanley Cup defeat, the Rangers failed to continue the trend last season, losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games this April.

While adding Vesey was a big get, and a prudent signing, the Rangers’ Cup window doesn’t rest on him or its offense, but on the broad shoulders of goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, and a defensive platoon that lost Keith Yandle.

Vesey is a nice addition to a team that ranked seventh in goals per game, but it’s hard to believe he’s the missing piece on a team that appears to be trending downward.

Above all else, though, the recruiting saga is finished, and now the hockey world, including plenty of eyes in The Big Apple, can focus on what he offers on the ice.

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