According to Bruce Garrioch’s sources, Cody Ceci is expected to be protect by the Ottawa Senators for the upcoming expansion draft.
The reasoning behind such a decision is pretty straightforward. Not only is Ceci the youngest regular on the team’s blue line, thanks to the combination of his salary, pedigree, handedness and localness, it’s not really in the Senators’ interest to expose Ceci in the expansion draft.
Inevitably there’s going to be some consternation because it feels safe to assume that barring a prearranged trade, the Senators stand to lose Marc Methot or better and cheaper alternatives like a Fredrik Claesson or a Chris Wideman.
For most of the season, reports suggested that Las Vegas was keeping a close eye on Wideman, but it’s hard to imagine them passing on the opportunity to select Methot considering he logged significant minutes playing against tough matchups. If he can’t help Vegas, one would have to imagine that they would not have a hard time flipping him for more assets, especially since Senators general manager Pierre Dorion acknowledged that there has been expressed interest in Methot by his counterparts.
At the same time however, with the $9.8-million that is owed to Methot over the next two seasons, maybe that price tag is large enough to persuade Vegas to take one of Ottawa’s cheaper alternatives.
It would be disappointing to see Vegas take a Claesson or a Wideman, because both players are not only less expensive but enjoyed better years than the maligned Ceci.
A little more than a year ago, the Senators were so concerned with Ceci’s performance during the 2015-16 season that they acquired Dion Phaneuf as part of a nine-player deal in February of 2016. The belief was that Ceci’s struggles stemmed from his lack of a quality veteran partner, but despite increased ice time and responsibilities, the Senators have still spent a disproportionate amount of time defending within their own end whenever Ceci has been on the ice.
In a perfect world, Phaneuf would have helped nurtured Ceci’s development and helped make him a better player. Unfortunately, it seems like the problems are rooted a little deeper. Despite possessing many of the physical tools that made him such a highly thought of prospect, Ceci’s shortcomings as a player are simply a function of his hockey IQ and his inability to make sound decisions quickly.
With all this being said, protecting Ceci at the expense of better alternatives is going to rankle some fans, but just because the Senators are protecting him now doesn’t preclude the team from moving him later this offseason. For the same reasons that the Senators will protect him, rival front offices will overrate his ability and believe themselves to be smart enough to get the most out of Ceci’s tools. From an asset management perspective, Ceci’s probably the defenceman that the Senators can fetch the biggest return for. Knowing that, it doesn’t really make sense to trade or expose him now because teams are worried about protecting their own assets before the expansion draft and perhaps most importantly, the Senators probably want to line up an external replacement for Ceci before cutting ties.
As opposed to replacing a Methot internally with options like Phaneuf or Claesson, the Senators don’t enjoy the same amount of right-handed internal depth on the blue line. To replace Ceci, the Senators would inevitably have to go outside the organization and although there are some intriguing names like Cody Franson out there, there’s no guarantee that he would even come here.
The best thing the Senators can do with Ceci’s market is wait and by the looks of it, that’s what the organization is willing to do.
Rather than complain about what’s going on now, it’s probably best to take a step back and wait to see how the dust settles.