Mike Halford

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 23:  Jimmy Vesey #19 of the Harvard Crimson skates against the Boston College Eagles during the second period of the 2015 Beanpot Tournament consolation game at TD Garden on February 23, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Report: Sabres sent cavalry to meet with Vesey in Boston

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There was a big meeting between Buffalo and reigning Hobey Baker winner Jimmy Vesey today, per the Providence Journal, and the Sabres sent a pretty healthy contingent along.

The report claims GM Tim Murray, head coach Dan Bylsma and assistant Jerry Forton all spent “two-plus hours” in Boston meeting with Vesey, who the Sabres acquired in June from Nashville.

Murray has been outspoken in his desire to land Vesey, who can become an unrestricted free agent on Aug. 15. It stands to reason he and Bylsma were there to detail what role they see Vesey playing in Buffalo, but the inclusion of Forton is compelling.

Why?

Well, prior to joining Buffalo, Forton had a two-year stint as an assistant at Harvard — including the 2012-13 campaign, which was Vesey’s freshman year for the Crimson.

If Forton and company were able to bend Vesey’s ear, it could mark a significant change in strategy. The 23-year-old has been insistent about testing UFA waters, and balked on signing with the Predators for exactly that reason.

There’s been rumblings the allure of playing with close friend Jack Eichel could also swing Vesey in Buffalo’s direction. But optimism about that notion was dissipated this week when Vesey’s brother Nolan — currently participating in Toronto’s prospects development camp — downplayed the idea of his brother signing anywhere prior to Aug. 15.

“At the end of the day, Jimmy’s going to make his own decision,” Nolan said, per TSN. “Obviously I’ve thought about playing with him before, he’s my brother. It would be cool, but I want what’s best for him and he’s going to choose the team that’s the best fit for him.”

It’s long been rumored that Jimmy has his sights set on signing with Boston, the team he grew up cheering for.

Related: Vesey will get the Sabres’ best pitch, but he still intends to go to free agency

Leafs announce plans for centennial season

Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan, left,  and Lou Lamoriello smile at a news conference to announce Lamoriello has been named the new general manager of the Maple Leafs NHL hockey team in Toronto, Thursday, July 23, 2015. (Galit Rodan/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto will celebrate its 100th season in 2016-17, and while some of the festivities have already been announced — like the NHL Centennial Classic, an outdoor game versus Detroit — the club announced a series of initiatives on Thursday for the upcoming campaign.

“The Maple Leafs Centennial Anniversary comes at a very special time in the team’s history,” team president Brendan Shanahan said in a release. “It allows us to look back and celebrate the great players, accomplishments and special memories of one of the most important franchises in hockey, but at the same time, look ahead to the next 100 years and the start of an exciting new chapter in team history.”

Among the plans for season No. 100:

— A special centennial logo, featuring the Maple Leafs new logo in silver with the number 100 displayed.

— New banners to hang in Air Canada Centre, paying tribute to the players that have had their numbers honored. Beginning this summer and throughout the season, the 18 original Air Canada Centre banners will be delivered to the hometowns that produced these players.

— Exhibition games in Halifax, St. Catherine’s and Hamilton.

— Statues for Dave Keon, Tim Horton and Turk Broda will officially be added to Legend’s Row.

For more on Toronto’s Centennial season plans, click here.

Pens sign former Florida forward Wilson

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: Garrett Wilson #28 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New York Islanders during the first period at the Barclays Center on March 14, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh added some depth to its forward group on Thursday, agreeing to terms with ex-Panther Garrett Wilson on a one-year, two-way deal worth $575,000 at the NHL level.

More, from the Pens:

Wilson, 25, split the 2015-16 season between the Florida Panthers and their minor-league affiliate, the Portland Pirates. It was Wilson’s first extended NHL action, as he appeared in 29 contests with the Panthers.

During the 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs, the 6-foot-2, 199-pound Wilson suited up for all six of Florida’s opening-round matchups against the New York Islanders, picking up his first NHL point with an assist on Alex Petrovic’s game-winning goal in Game 4.

Wilson primarily plays left wing and while there aren’t many openings at that spot, his versatility could result in some minutes up front next season. Pens GM Jim Rutherford dealt away Beau Bennett to New Jersey, and has yet to come to terms with veteran center Matt Cullen.

If the Pens are looking for a physical presence next year, Wilson could be a good option. Despite only playing in 29 games for Florida last year, he finished seventh among forwards with 75 hits.

Veteran Isles tough guy Carkner calls it a career

Matt Carkner
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NEW YORK (AP) Defenseman Matt Carkner has retired after a 15-year career.

Carkner, 35, appeared in 237 NHL games with the New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators and San Jose Sharks. He scored four goals, added 23 assists and compiled 556 penalty minutes. He added one goal and two assists with 35 penalty minutes in 14 career playoff games with the Senators and Islanders.

Montreal selected Carkner in the second round (58th overall) of the 1999 draft. Carkner made his professional debut in 2001-02 with the AHL’s Cleveland Barons and played 587 games in the AHL with Cleveland, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Binghamton and Bridgeport.

Welcome back: Kelly returns to Ottawa on one-year, $900,000 deal

UNIONDALE, NY - FEBRUARY 05:  Chris Kelly #22 of the Ottawa Senators skates during an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on February 5, 2011 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
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What’s old is new again in the Canadian capital.

Chris Kelly, who broke in with Ottawa 13 years ago and played the first 463 games of his career there, has signed back on with the Sens on a one-year, $900,000 deal, the club announced on Thursday.

“We are excited to welcome Chris back to Ottawa,” said Senators general manager Pierre Dorion in a release. “In our evaluation of our roster we felt that we needed to add another player with the ability to succeed in close situations and on the penalty kill.

“Chris will be able to contribute to both of those while adding another accomplished leader to our group. He understands the type of commitment that is necessary to play at a championship level.”

Kelly left the Sens organization in 2011, when he was traded to Boston. He was a key cog in the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship — scoring 13 points in 25 games — and was a key faceoff man and defensive center in the club’s run to the 2013 final.

Ottawa’s special teams were atrocious last season, especially the penalty kill, which is why Dorion alluded to Kelly’s influence on the PK.

The big question, of course, is how much Kelly has left in the tank. He turns 36 in November, and is coming off a broken femur that cost him almost all of the ’15-16 campaign.