Senators defenseman Cody Ceci took a sizeable step forward during the 2015-16 campaign and Ottawa is hoping that continues to be the case. But first thing’s first: the Senators and Ceci need to find some common ground and agree to a deal that gets the restricted free agent locked up for the coming campaign.
With less than a month until training camp starts, and exactly two months until the Senators open their season against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ceci has yet to ink a new contract. But GM Pierre Dorion doesn’t seem concerned about the contract situation with the 22-year-old blueliner. In fact, he sounds quite confident a deal will get done.
“J.P (Barry) and I exchanged emails (Thursday) and they were really positive emails,” Dorion said, according to the Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch. “We’re still looking at different angles and what we can do for a contract but I have a lot of faith.”
As for the hold up, Dorion quipped that it may have something to do with him being a fresh face in the GM game. Dorion took over the GM role from Bryan Murray in April after the longtime Senators GM stepped down to an advisory role due to health concerns and the desire to spend more time with his family.
“It’s taken a bit longer than I anticipated,” Dorion said, via Garrioch. “I think maybe J.P. is trying to test me in my first time as GM, even though I’ve done quite a (few) contracts before. He’ll be playing for us Oct. 12th. I think in the next few weeks we’ll get something done.”
One reason the deal may be taking some time to get done is that the Senators and Ceci seem to be going back and forth between a short-term bridge deal and a long-term contract that would lock up the rearguard for the foreseeable future. According to Garrioch, Ceci and the Senators have spoken about deals both two and six years in length.
In terms of advanced stats, there are about 18 comparable players to Ceci when it comes to minutes at 5-on-5 and similar zone starts. Of those 18 defensemen, all of whom have seen between 30-35 percent of their starts in their own zone and 28-33 percent in the offensive zone, Ceci ranks 17th with a 46.8 Corsi for percentage. When it comes to raw goal numbers, Ceci fares better, ranking 10th with a 49.1 goals for percentage.
Among the players in the same grouping, though, Ceci sits closer in advanced stats to a player like Arizona Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy than he does someone like Dallas Stars blueliner John Klingberg. And the Stars are lucky to have Klingberg inked to a ridiculously team-friendly seven-year, $29.75-million deal, while the Coyotes only recently signed Murphy to a six-year, $23.1-million pact.
In all likelihood, the terms on the Murphy deal, which carries an annual cap hit of $3.85 million, are nearer to the contract Ceci is likely to land on a long-term deal, but the Senators can also choose to gamble on a bridge deal. The risk is that if Ceci has a breakout year and really emerges as a top-pairing defender it could prove costly.
That said, at this point, Ceci hasn’t yet taken the next step and looked like a top-two defenseman. He has the raw size and the puck-moving ability to be a staple on the Senators’ blueline, but he’s yet to piece the rest of his game together. And with $32.5 million in cap space available in two years’ time, a bridge deal might be the way to go.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.