Here we go again.
Trade rumours have circled the Ottawa Senators for years now, and most of the players involved in them have eventually been shipped out. But there has been one player that the team has held onto: Cody Ceci. Ceci has drawn the ire of Senators fans since he broke into the league and has never lived up to the 15th-overall selection that the team used on him. With the team rebuilding, now may be as good a time as any to move the defender.
According to Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun, general manager Pierre Dorion and Ceci’s camp have discussed a potential extension for the restricted free agent (RFA) defenseman, both short and long term. However, Warren also says that Dorion is also “seriously exploring the trade market” in case the two sides can’t come to an agreement. (From: “Cody Ceci in the midst of trade talks in advance of NHL draft” – Ottawa Sun – June 18, 2019).
This possibility brings up many questions. What would a trade look like? Where could he end up? And perhaps most importantly, is this finally the time Ceci gets traded? Let’s take a look.
Ceci Trade Comparable
Leading up to the draft, many defenders on the trade bait and free agent lists have been taken off the board. Former Senator Erik Karlsson re-signed with the San Jose Sharks (giving the Senators a 2021 second-round pick in the process), Jacob Trouba was traded to the New York Rangers, Olli Maatta was moved to the Chicago Blackhawks, and Justin Braun was sent to the Philadelphia Flyers, who also swapped Radko Gudas with Matt Niskanen of the Washington Capitals. It’s been a busy few days for the league’s defenders.
Out of these, the closest comparison is former Pittsburgh Penguin, Maatta. Here’s a look comparing the career stats of the first-round picks:
They are about the same age, with similar stats through their careers. Both players have also struggled defensively through their careers with Ceci holding a minus-3.9 Relative Corsi For percentage and Maatta with a minus -1.2.
When the Penguins traded Maatta to the Blackhawks, the return was Dominik Kahun and a 2019 fifth-round draft pick. Kahun is a promising forward coming off of a rookie season with 13 goals and 23 assists. It’s a good return for the Penguins. A sticking point would be the fact that Ceci is a restricted free agent, where Maatta has three years left on his deal.
For the Senators, they would be looking for at least this if they were to trade their home-grown defender. More likely though, they would use him in a package to move up in the draft.
What Could a Ceci Trade Look Like?
According to Sportsnet’s Wayne Scanlan, Dorion’s phone has been ringing for their cap space and draft assets. In the article, Dorion discusses what those calls have touched on.
“There have been multiple discussions, more about moving up than moving down because we have pick 32 and 44.”
The Senators may try to move up, say to the Vancouver Canucks spot with the 10th pick or the Edmonton Oilers at 8th. Both teams have been rumoured to be looking at Toronto Maple Leafs right-handed defender Nikita Zaitsev, and if the price is too high, maybe they turn their attention to another right-shot defenseman: Ceci.
Speaking of the Oilers, another interesting return could be Jesse Puljijarvi. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the winger has asked the team for a trade. Coming from a position of weakness, the Oilers, who need defense, could see Ceci as the best return possible. They have said the won’t give him away, but perhaps there is a deal to be made here.
Puljijarvi was the fourth-overall pick in 2016 and hasn’t had the best start to his career with the Oilers. In 139 games, he has 17 goals and 37 points. He’s looking for a change of scenery, and as a right winger at just 21-years-old, he would fit perfectly with the rebuilding Senators.
It might not be a one-for-one trade considering the age and ceiling difference, but Ceci and a fourth or fifth-round pick for the Oilers’ winger would be an enticing deal. TSN’s Ryan Rishaug mentioned that the Oilers would want a third-line forward in the deal, so maybe including veteran Mikkel Boedker could help the case.
Although, he also mentions that defender Matt Benning could be on the move to make room for a younger blue-liner, so perhaps that plays Ceci out of any deal with the Oilers. If the Senators are willing to take a bad contract back, which they have the cap room for, the Oilers seem like an ideal trade partner.
Will the Senators Trade Ceci?
As Dorion said, he’s going to try and re-sign Ceci to an extension. However, if they can’t reach a deal, Dorion will look to move him. Looking back to last year’s offseason, Ceci and the Senators went into arbitration looking for a deal. The defender’s camp was looking for $6 million and the team countered with $3.3 million. The arbitrator awarded Ceci $4.3 million. If the ask and offer are anywhere around the same numbers as last season, it’s likely that Ceci’s time is over in Ottawa.
That being said, Dorion has also said that Ceci is part of the core veteran group for the Senators. And this is not the first time Ceci’s name has been in the rumour mill. He’s been a trade candidate ever since Taylor Hall was an Oiler, so it remains to be seen if this time it actually happens. If Dorion and the Senators are serious about their rebuild, it would be smart to move on from the defenseman.