Okay, Jimbo didn’t actually sign Jack Johnson immediately after buying him out. The New York Rangers did that, and it was hilarious. But the Penguins did something that’s still pretty bad, folks! Right after buying out the worst player in the NHL, Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford signed someone who comes close to that same designation in the form of defenseman Cody Ceci.
The term isn’t bad, nor is the money (in a vacuum anyway) with the contract being 1-year for $1.25 million. But there’s a larger problem at play here. If we are to include Ceci’s contract (which we will, and an explanation for why we are will be explained in a moment) the Penguins have a ton of dead money tied up in things that aren’t contributing to their success and probably could’ve been avoided. For one, the Penguins are retaining $2.05 million of Nick Bjugstad’s contract after he was traded to the Minnesota Wild for a conditional 7th round pick. Then, Jack Johnson was finally bought out of his contract, which leaves the Penguins paying $1.167 million a year until 2023, and then $916k for the following three years until 2026. Now, include Cody Ceci’s contract which is $1.25 million, and that’s a lot of money the Penguins can’t use toward bigger and better things! The buyer’s market is hot, and the Penguins are in a continual state of needing to maximize the remaining time they have left with two of the best hockey players in NHL history in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
This year, after Cody Ceci’s signing, the Penguins have about $4,467,000 that they can’t use. That stinks! That stinks pretty hard! So, why am I including Cody Ceci’s contract in what I just deemed “dead money?” Well, dead money implies (at least in the way I’m using it) it’s money allocated to assets that aren’t helping the Penguins or aren’t contributing to the Penguins’ success (though it could be argued paying Jack Johnson to not play for the Penguins is helping the Penguins…)
Cody Ceci is dead money because he’s bad. He’s not going to help the Penguins play the way they played which brought them to success, and it’s folly to think otherwise.
Cody Ceci, signed 1x$1.25M by PIT, is a subreplacement defenceman who consistently gets played in much higher minutes than he deserves. It’s been a while since the Pens had someone like that, eh? pic.twitter.com/kisudWDw7w
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) October 17, 2020
Now, listen. He’s not as bad as Jack Johnson, that much is true. But we as armchair GMs (admit it, that’s what we all are) need to immediately establish and follow one rule, an extremely golden rule, so golden that it’s brighter than the Penguin on starting goaltender Tristan Jarry’s helmet. That rule is this:
NOT BEING AS BAD AS JACK JOHNSON DOES NOT MEAN IT IS GOOD!
Let’s provide an example in the context of the Penguins themselves. Jack Johnson was the absolute pits, true. Matt Hunwick was also very bad. Remember Rob Scuderi? He was bad too! Replace Jack Johnson with either of them. Are you happy with that? Of course not, because they’re still bad! Replacing Jack Johnson with Cody Ceci is an improvement over Jack Johnson, but it’s only an improvement in that specific, extremely limited and now irrelevant context. This isn’t a move that helps the Penguins. He’s still bad, and pairing him with Mike Matheson is even worse. Their flaws complement each other (I don’t know if I’ve ever typed out that phrase before) in that one can’t stop his own turnovers and the other can’t drive play in any way whatsoever. How are these two going to get into the offensive zone, no less passed the red line? They’re going to have to rely on the offense to drive and start every single play they’re on the ice for, and half of an NHL defender’s job is to drive play!
The second most mind-boggling aspect of this signing (the first being the signing itself) is the existence of Juuso Riikola and Chad Ruhwedel. Riikola was just extended and received praises from Rutherford, and we all likely expected Matheson to pair with one of the two. Ruhwedel and Riikola were going to be the 6th and 7th defensemen. Now, they’re the 7th and 8th defensemen. How in the world did that happen? What did Cody Ceci do to show Jim Rutherford that his praises for Riikola were, I don’t know, hasty? Was he just talking to talk? Is he trying to hype up Riikola to eventually move him? I have no clue. I don’t get it. But for all intents and purposes, we just signed another Jack Johnson! Excellent! Radical! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA thanks for reading my hockey article i had fun writing it.