The appeal of playing for his hometown team was not strong enough for Jimmy Vesey to say yes to the Bruins.
On Friday, the Charlestown native and North Reading resident agreed to a two-year entry-level contract with the New York Rangers. Vesey will earn rookie maximums in both base pay ($925,000) and performance bonuses ($1.925 million) per year, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
Bruins GM Don Sweeney got the news in a phone call from Peter Fish and Mark Witkin, Vesey's agents.
"We put our best foot forward," Sweeney said. "We feel very strongly in the organization. Jimmy has his reasons, I'm sure, and maybe he'll make it known in some time why he chose what he did. We feel very good about the process we went through. I'm not surprised in some ways. I am disappointed in others."
The 23-year-old Vesey will be teammates with Kevin Hayes, who provided him with occasional counsel.
Hayes, originally Chicago property, also declined to join his draft team following his Boston College career. Hayes signed with the Rangers on Aug. 20, 2014.
In a conference call Friday night, Vesey said the Rangers' intense interest won the day.
''The thing that jumped out at me was that they came to really want me,'' Vesey said. ''It seemed that they really needed to have me in their lineup and it seemed that they believe in me. That was something that I was looking for.''
Vesey's decision completes a process that started June 23, 2012. On that day in Pittsburgh, Nashville selected Vesey in the third round.
For the last two seasons, the Predators kept a roster spot open for Vesey in case he decided to sign. But upon the completion of his senior year at Harvard, Vesey informed the Predators he would not sign before the Aug. 15 deadline, thereby becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Nashville traded Vesey's rights to Buffalo on June 20 for a 2016 third-rounder. The Sabres held exclusive negotiating rights with Vesey through Monday. But even after speaking in person with Buffalo general manager Tim Murray and coach Dan Bylsma, Vesey planned to test free agency and meet with his suitors, including the Bruins.
The Bruins chased the Harvard graduate aggressively. On Wednesday, Sweeney, CEO Charlie Jacobs, president Cam Neely, coach Claude Julien, and assistant coach Jay Pandolfo were part of the crew that hosted Vesey and Fish at Warrior Ice Arena. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Torey Krug, and Adam McQuaid also participated in the meeting, according to Sweeney.
"They gave him an inside tour of the room from the players' perspective, and I'm very appreciative of that," Sweeney said. "It speaks volumes to the investment of our guys."
Sweeney, using Tampa Bay wing and fellow Harvard graduate Alex Killorn as a comparable, told Vesey he would have a chance to start his career alongside Krejci on the No. 2 line. Julien explained how he would be deployed. In future seasons, Sweeney sketched out how Vesey would mature alongside younger forwards such as Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Zach Senyshyn, and Jake DeBrusk.
But by signing with the Rangers and GM Jeff Gorton, Vesey indicated the fit was better on Broadway than Causeway, both from an individual and team perspective. The Rangers have made the playoffs six straight times. The Bruins have missed the last two years.
"There might have been one box we couldn't do something about or needed to do," Sweeney said. "I'm not going to second-guess from that standpoint."
In New York, Vesey could start his rookie season as the No. 3 left wing behind Rick Nash and fellow Massachusetts native Chris Kreider (Boxboro). Hayes could be his center if the Rangers prefer the Boston College graduate in the middle behind Derek Stepan and Mika Zibanejad. Vesey is coming off a 24-22—46 line in 33 games for coach Ted Donato.
But both Kreider and Vesey could be in line for promotions depending on Nash's future. The veteran forward has two seasons remaining on his eight-year, $62 million contract. While the 32-year-old Nash is still a productive two-way wing, his 36 points in 60 games last season were not enough to match his $7.8 million average annual value. By adding Vesey to the left side, the Rangers are in better position to shop Nash and free cap space.
The Bruins do not have many external options after failing to land Vesey. Brandon Pirri (14 goals, 15 assists, 61 games for Florida and Anaheim last year) is looking for work.
Unsigned wingers in the grinding category include Brandon Prust and Chris Higgins. For now, Vesey's flight to Broadway gives Frank Vatrano the inside edge for the Bruins' third-line left-wing job.
"This was a unique opportunity," Sweeney said of chasing a local Hobey Baker winner without trading assets. "We had to take a swing at it."
The other teams to meet with Vesey on Tuesday and Wednesday — the Blackhawks, Devils, Islanders, Maple Leafs, and Penguins — must also consider their next moves after missing out on the left wing.