By now I’m sure you have seen news about this, but Darren Dreger dropped a bit of a bombshell yesterday on Edmonton radio.
Senators fans don’t need any more bad news these days, but unfortunately Dreger’s tidbit was just salt in the wound during this miserable season. According to him, back in the summer of 2016, a Taylor Hall for Cody Ceci trade almost happened before the Edmonton Oilers got Adam Larsson instead:
“And these two clubs came real close to making a pretty big trade not that long ago and just couldn’t get it done, and that trade was Taylor Hall for I think they finally got to a place where Ottawa was willing to consider Cody Ceci – so it would have been Hall for Ceci – but had to be cleared in Ottawa through ownership. And before they could get clearance, Hall got traded to New Jersey for Larsson”
And before you retort that a package from Ottawa would’ve had to include a lot more than Ceci, Dreger said “I don’t think so” when asked if it was more than a 1-for-1.
While those talks in July of 2016 reportedly got far along, something was holding the Senators back from completing the deal. Dreger went on to say that the trade “had to be cleared in Ottawa through ownership. And before they could get clearance, Hall got traded to New Jersey for Larsson.“
The first obvious thought I had was the Eugene Melnyk had something to do with this, because the way Dreger worded the part about clearing through ownership made it seem like Melnyk was hesitant to add Hall’s $6M cap hit. However, he back-tracked later on Twitter to say that that wasn’t necessarily the case:
No intent to imply the deal might have been scuttled by Sens ownership. Don't know that was the case. https://t.co/L6vjTgIWEy— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 4, 2018
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean Melnyk didn’t nix any sort of deal like this.
I also think that we should trust the validity of this rumour considering how many sources he has around the game. Plus Ceci has been connected to many forwards out there including Jonathan Drouin and Jordan Eberle, as Travis Yost noted that Eberle was also discussed with the Senators.
On a serious note: Eberle for Ceci was A Thing, I am pretty darn sure. So this isn't crazy.— Travis Yost (@travisyost) November 26, 2017
Despite the fact that nothing points to Ceci being an effective defenseman, he still has some value as a right-shot defender who is 24 and plays almost 23 minutes a night. And a year and a half ago, he would have had even more value as someone who had alleged untapped potential and was about to get a not very expensive contract.
So while acquiring Hall for Ceci straight up sounds insane, let’s remember that the Oilers only got Adam Larsson and Ceci’s reputation was/is of that ilk. I definitely believe that the Oilers wanted Ceci, and if Hall was actually offered, then it is an absolute crime that he is not an Ottawa Senator.
Even if it wasn’t just Ceci they wanted, I doubt they asked for another big piece like Thomas Chabot or something that would have made the deal harder to think about. If Dreger was hearing just Ceci in a potential deal, the only addition to a deal would have been perhaps a middle pick or a B-level prospect.
Considering that, there’s no way Ottawa was going to lose that trade.
So that begs the question: why didn’t it go through? I feel like Melnyk wasn’t thrilled about adding a lot more in salary, but the funny thing is that Hall has one of the best contracts in the league as at the time he had four years left at $6M per season. We may never know, but with the financial situation he’s in right now, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this were true.
And if Pierre Dorion was the one that had pause on this deal, then that’s a fireable offense. Sure, there was still some hope back then that Ceci would turn a corner eventually, but even then it was painfully obvious that he wasn’t very good. The Senators wanted him to be good so badly, and they’re still forcing him to be what they want him to be.
There was such a small chance that Ceci was going to improve to be as effective of a defenseman as Hall is as a left-winger, so the risk in this trade was extremely minimal. Sure, if Ceci had turned into a legitimate second pairing player that would have stung, but I think having Taylor freaking Hall would have compensated for that.
In case you forgot how good Hall is, he has 40 points in 38 games this season and averages 70 points a season, which would make him the best forward on the team.
At the end of the day, I’m not sure who to blame considering we don’t know why the deal fell through. But for some reason they didn’t feel comfortable making this deal (or a similar deal) and that’s incredibly embarrassing for an organization who has had one of the worst 2-month stretches in a long time.
The fact is that if not Taylor Hall, Ottawa could’ve had some other quality top-6 forward for Cody Ceci. The possibility of getting that kind of return dwindles each day though.