Vesey’s Canucks Deployment and Future

By: Brayden Fengler / March 19, 2021  

On Wednesday, March 17th the Canucks acquired Jimmy Vesey off of waivers. The 27-year-old left-winger was previously playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs this season. With all parties involved being north of the 49th parallel, thankfully for the Canuck they didn’t have to worry about any quarantine protocols with this acquisition. Vesey was having a decent season in Toronto as a bottom-six forward, however “decent” for the Maples Leafs is a lot different this year than “decent” for the Canucks this season.

Jimmy Vesey seems like a solid addition within the Canucks’ cash-cautious environment. Vancouver desperately needs more bottom-six depth, as their superstar in Elias Pettersson still remains out of the line-up. Additionally, their need for depth was made greater on Wednesday, in what could’ve been Vesey’s very first game for the Canucks, Tanner Pearson left the game with an undisclosed lower-body injury.

Next Stop, Jimmy VeseyC-Clark

Vesey is a hard-working winger that Toronto would’ve no doubt liked to keep in their system if they were able to. However as a bottom-six forward, on the best team in the North Division, the bar for being a roaster-able player was simply raised too high for Vesey. Ultimately it was a combination of Vesey’s replaceable production and Toronto’s cap issues that caused the Leafs to opt Vesey for the waiver wire.

Vesey dressed for all 30 possible games with Toronto this season prior to his departure, although his minutes were waning in his most recent outings. In Vesey’s last 10 games with the Leafs, he only twice cracked a TOI above 10 minutes. This was a far cry from his early-season deployment with Toronto of 10-13 minutes of ice time a game. Despite his drop in minutes played, his point pace and production remained roughly the same as his early-season numbers. The only downside being that his point totals weren’t amazing to start with.

To this point in the season, Vesey has only earned 7 points, while at least managing to average above a shot per game pace with 32 on the year. Vesey ranks 2nd in total points, compared to the four other members of the Canucks bottom core who have seen a similar amount of games. Vesey has three fewer games played than Brandon Sutter who has earned 8pts so far this season with the Canucks. This puts Vesey ahead of Antoine Roussel (29GP – 3pts), Jay Beagle, and (30GP – 5pts) Adam Gaudette (29GP – 6pts).

Vesey has consistently been a 20-30 goal score in his previous four NHL seasons. He’s passed the age where you’d hope to see him explode with untapped talent, like the Canucks hope Gaudette still will. But Vesey’s production this year and in years prior, already helps him stand out among the bottom core of this Canucks group. Additionally, with Jake Virtanen’s abysmal performance in the top six, plus the continued absence of Pettersson and likely Pearson too, Vesey is poised to go from a cut 4th line Leaf, to a well utilized top six Canuck.

Vesey Arrives at the Right Time for the Canucks

After the events of Vancouver’s 3-2 white knuckle win against the Ottawa Senators, it’s clear That Vesey will be an important piece in the line-up next game. He would’ve likely still slotted into an important role regardless of Pearson’s injury. However, now it seems like he’ll be thrust a little higher in the line-up than maybe Benning and Green had initially planned.

As of Friday morning, we don’t yet know how long Pearson will be out of the line-up. All we know is that it seems to be an ankle injury, and those can be a real toss-up, as far as recovery time is concerned. The Canucks only just got Tyler Motte back who was away for nearly 6 weeks with an ankle injury of his own. So it seems that despite the team not being able to catch a break with injuries, they managed to catch a small break, in regards to the timing of the Vesey acquisition.

What Will Vesey’s Deployment Be

Right now I think it should be plug-and-play for Vesey and the Canucks. He should easily take Pearson’s spot in the top six, playing alongside Bo Horvat and Virtanen most likely. Pearson just so happens to be the most comparable player to Vesey on the Canucks, as it stands this season. So with Pearson out, Vancouver shouldn’t need to overthink this choice and would be wise to slot Vesey into the top six for the time being.

There is also always the opportunity for the Canucks to use this injury driven line-up shuffle, to give some unutilized players more time to shine. Namely Adam Gaudette, who we here at have been singing the praises of in a number of recent pieces

If the Canucks want to prepare to keep Miller on the wing when Pettersson comes back, they could do so with a line-up shuffle that also puts Gaudette in the top six. With Motte back, he obviously takes his 4th line role, where he has been sorely missed. In this proposed line-up shuffle, just above Motte on the third line would be Vesey likely alongside a Sutter, Jayce Hawrlyuk combo. This then allows Miller to slide to the left on either of the top two lines, creating the opportunity for Gaudette to fill a centre role in the top six. In this scenario, Vesey would see improved deployment compared to Toronto, but he wouldn’t go from zero to hero and be pressured into immediately performing under high minutes with his new team. 

When Petey and Pearson come back, that will be the time to evaluate how Vesey is adapting to the new team. In the meantime, the plus side of Vancouver’s injury-ridden roster is that they don’t have to bend over backwards in order to give Vesey a variety of different looks in the line-up.

Do the Canucks Vesey a Future With Jimmy?

In Jim Benning’s recent presser, one of the many things that raised eyebrows around Vancouver was Benning’s mention of how he’s looking into extending Tanner Pearson. Pearson is on the last year of his four-year deal with a current cap hit of $3.75M. With three huge contracts on the horizon for the Canucks in Pettersson, Quinn Hughes, and Thatcher Demko, if Pearson stays a Canuck, it simply can’t be at his current price. If the number that Benning intends to propose to Pearson isn’t close enough for him, it’s likely that Pearson will simply try his chances at free agency, rather than giving a discount to the Canucks. 

So how does Vesey factor into Pearson’s contract situation? Well, this may be putting the buggy quite a ways before the horse, since Vesey hasn’t played a game for the Canucks yet, but the team may want to consider signing him instead of Pearson this off-season. Vesey, who is one year younger than Pearson, also has another low number associated with himself, and that’s his cap hit. Vesey’s cap hit is $900k, a much more reasonable number for the Canucks to continue to pay if they hope to hold onto depth pieces while also signing their young talent.

These financial numbers make a Pearson vs Vesey decision almost look like a no-brainer. However, although the two are similar in many ways, Benning and the rest of the Canucks’ organization may not see it that way. There are qualities in Pearson’s on and off ice presence with the Canucks, that we don’t yet know if Vesey can replicate. Pearson is widely touted as an easy and efficient player to work with, he’s not nearly as flashy as the guys in the top six, but he’s reliable. Reliability and coachability are hard stats to track, and Pearson definitely holds a lot of value in those categories within the Canucks system. This is not to say though, that Vesey can’t prove similar value over the course of the season, the Canucks certainly would like to see him do just that.

Nevertheless, if Vesey shows promise, he should serve as a cheap alternative to re-signing Pearson, if it turns out that a team-friendly number can’t be reached with him. The Canucks would also be wise to look into trading Pearson, should Vesey tangibly click with the team before the trade deadline. However, exploring this idea seems almost pointless after Benning’s recent announcement of his hopes to re-sign Pearson.

Big shoutout to Cody Severtson of The Comets Harvest and The CreaseCast for suggesting the clever, Vesey + VCC-Clark Skytrain station related pun, which served as our first paragraph header.

It’s so simple and so topical for our site, how we didn’t make that connection ourselves is beyond us.