August 16th is an important day on the calendar—at least by the standards of summertime college hockey news—because according to the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team loses the rights to any drafted player that was part of this year’s graduating class, and no longer a bona fide college student. That means any drafted but unsigned NCAA player with no more eligibility becomes a free agent tomorrow.
There’s usually not a lot of NHL signings on the 16th—if a team that liked a player enough to draft him doesn’t want to sign him to an entry-level contract, odds are high that other teams aren’t interested as well—and that is the case with many of the 15 players scheduled to become free agents tomorrow.
But there are a few names out there that could pique the interest of NHL teams, and one name in particular that should make big news tomorrow.
CapFriendly has compiled a list of all the players that will become free agents at midnight tonight:
ICYMI: The following is a list of College players who are eligible to become UFA at the end of today. pic.twitter.com/Nk71eQnXJn— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) August 15, 2016
Obviously the biggest name on the list is Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey. Vesey infamously turned down a max contract offer from the Nashville Predators and an opportunity to join the Preds in their post-season run for the opportunity to become a free agent tomorrow.
Vesey’s rights were traded to Buffalo prior to the NHL Draft(for a pick that eventually became Minnesota commit Rem Pitlick) to give the Sabres exclusive negotiating rights between late-June and today. While the Sabres made a strong pitch, and are rumored to still possibly be in contention to sign Vesey, it appears as though Vesey will explore all of his options in the free agent market starting tomorrow.
Rumored favorites to earn the services of Vesey include, in no particular order: Boston, Toronto, Buffalo, New York Rangers, New Jersey, Chicago, New York Islanders, and Pittsburgh.
For what it’s worth, ESPN lists the Devils, Rangers, and Leafs as the favorites to sign him.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie says that Vesey’s decision may not come tomorrow, or even in the next few days:
BTW, Jimmy Vesey isn't UFA until midnight tonight. Quite possible he won't choose a team until Thursday or even the weekend. #VeseyWatch— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) August 15, 2016
Meanwhile, here are a few of the other free agents that could draw some attention from NHL teams tomorrow:
Thomas DiPauli-The Washington Capitals were reportedly interested in signing the hard-working winger from Notre Dame, but DiPauli skipped the team’s development camp this summer and appears interested in testing free agency. DiPauli is a tough grinder with great work ethic that could make a good, cheap addition to a lower line at the NHL level.
John Gilmour-We really liked Gilmour this year, ranking him as the 80th-best NHL prospect in the NCAA this past season, but the Flames made the decision to let him walk in free agency this summer. Gilmour has NHL-caliber skating and the ability to provide some offensive production in the right situation.
Eddie Wittchow- Wittchow wasn’t signed by Florida as the Panthers are loaded with young defensive prospects, and his stock is likely at its’ low ebb thanks to spending two years with a brutal Wisconsin team. But Wittchow is a big, defensive defenseman with good enough footwork that he could play a quiet defensive in limited minutes some day at the NHL level.
Quentin Shore- Shore isn’t a big offensive producer, but he plays a smart, reliable game from the center position, which is a valuable commodity in the pro game.
Hunter Fejes-Fejes got a brief taste of the AHL late last season and that’s likely where he ends up. Fejes is a hard worker with decent size that could carve out a nice pro career for himself some day.
Tony Cameranesi-Cameranesi has already signed a minor league deal with Toronto’s AHL affiliate, so that is likely where he will end up, but Cameranesi has game-breaking speed that could earn him a spot in the NHL some day if he is able to prove himself in the minors.