The Value of Cody Ceci to the Ottawa Senators

The off-season checklist for Ottawa Senators General Manager Pierre Dorion is getting smaller as the 2016-17 NHL season approaches.There is one last thing that needs to happen before training camp opens. Dorion and the Senators need to re-sign Ottawa native defenceman Cody Ceci.

The 6’3″, 205-pound defenseman is coming off his entry-level contract, was selected 15th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft and is a key piece to the Senators moving forward. Having played two and half seasons with the Senators, Ceci has shown his value to the franchise. In 211 NHL games played, Ceci has increased his points total every season, showing he is an offensive defenseman and capable of playing in Ottawa’s top four defence pairings. Having a defenseman that can generate points from the blue line is something that is highly valuable in today’s NHL, so it is in Ottawa’s best interest to get Ceci signed to a contract sooner rather than later.

Cody Ceci and Dion Phaneuf

When former General Manager Bryan Murray made a blockbuster trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season for veteran defencemen Dion Phaneuf it was to fill a hole in Ottawa’s line-up. At the time there was no clear second defence duo, Cody Ceci’s defence partner often changed from game to game, with no real opportunity to build chemistry. Phaneuf’s addition  stabilized Ottawa’s top four defence pairings, with Ceci and Phaneuf paired together for most of the remaining games of the regular season on Ottawa’s second pairing. With a stable veteran stay-at-home NHL defencemen on the other side, Ceci was able to show the offensive upside that Ottawa 67’s fans saw in the 2011-12 season where he had 75 points in 82 regular season and playoff games played. The 2012 first round pick had 10 of his 26 regular season points in the 28 games following the Phaneuf trade. It is still early in the Ottawa native’s development, but Senators fans are seeing glimpses of what Ottawa 67’s fans saw a few years ago. With Phaneuf signed through the 2020-21 NHL season, there is plenty of time to let Ceci develop alongside him.

 “I’ve found my game, having Phaneuf back there allows me to get up in the play and just feel more involved that way.” Cody Ceci interview with the Ottawa Citizen’s Wayne Scanlan March 18, 2016

Bridge Deal or Long-Term?

The big question in negotiating Ceci’s extension will be whether Ottawa should sign him long-term or let Ceci prove to management he is worthy of a long-term deal by giving him a shorter bridge contract. Going long-term, around 5 years on Ceci will give Ottawa stability in its top four and allow Ceci to play alongside Phaneuf for the remainder of his contract – if the duo continues to gel. However, going long-term on a player that has only played 211 NHL games has its risks, mainly that his game may drop off and he doesn’t develop into the defencemen the Senators hope we would. On the other hand, if Ceci breaks out during the short bridge contract and is that kind of player many saw in junior, it could cost the Senators a lot more to sign him to a long-term deal. Looking at comparable contracts around the NHL, it seems more likely that management will want to a sign a short bridge deal in an effort to see how Ceci improves his game in a full NHL season, or two alongside a stable defence partner. An example is fellow 2012 first round pick Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild who had the same point total as Ceci last season. The Wild signed Dumba to a short bridge deal for two years at an AAV of $2.55 million.

Whether Ceci signs a bridge or long-term deal, General Manager Pierre Dorion needs to get a deal done in the next two months. Dorion has made moves to position the Senators for a post-season appearance, trading for Derick Brassard and re-signing Mike Hoffman to a long-term deal. All that remains for Dorion to do is stabilize Ottawa’s defence core and re-sign Cody Ceci.