Monday June 20th, 2016

There was no way the Predators would be made whole once top prospect Jimmy Vesey announced his decision in March to pursue free agency rather than sign with the team.

But this is about as good as it could possibly get.

The Preds announced Monday that they have acquired a 2016 third-round pick from the Sabres in exchange for the rights to the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner. The pick, which originally belonged to the Wild, will be the 76th selection in this year's draft.

That’s a surprisingly solid bounty for Nashville GM David Poile given how little leverage he had. And while he’s unlikely to acquire another talent like Vesey with the pick, it’s not out of the question. The promising power forward was himself obtained with a third rounder (No. 66) in the 2012 draft.

The Predators now have eight selections in this weekend’s draft, starting with the 17th pick in Friday’s first round. They'll follow that up with the 47th, 76th, 78th, 108th, 138th, 168th and 198th selections on Saturday.

Complete 2016 NHL draft order | Why it’s a risky year for goalie prospects 

While Poile is counting his loot, Sabres GM Tim Murray must believe he has more than a leg up on signing a player who ranks right behind Steven Stamkos on the list of the summer’s most coveted free agents.

It’s widely believed that Vesey, who scored 80 goals in 128 games at Harvard, had his sights set on two teams when he chose the UFA route: Toronto, where his father works as a scout, and Boston, where he went to school.

The Sabres now make for an appealing third option for the 22-year-old. With Buffalo, his path to the NHL is clear and immediate. He has a chance to become a foundational piece for a franchise that is headed in the right direction.

NHL announces 2016-17 home openers | NWHL draft recap

And it just so happens that he’s buddies with Sabres star Jack Eichel, who, coincidentally, is his teammate in a Boston-area pro summer league. You don’t suppose Eichel will try putting the hard sell on his buddy while they’re hanging out in the dressing room, do you?

The fact that the two share an agent only makes a deal more likely.

Buffalo now has an exclusive negotiating window with Vesey that closes Aug. 15. They won’t need that long. Expect Vesey to open the 2016-17 season with the Sabres.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.