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Tradebait: Cody Ceci

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After all these years, will the oft-rumoured Ceci trade actually take place?

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Ottawa Senators Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

If Cody Ceci ever were to be traded, I’m not sure what the Ottawa Senators fan base would do with itself for at least a couple of weeks. The rearguard is playing his sixth season with the franchise, and has been the most hotly debated player for at least the last three. Is Ceci actually good, or does he just play a lot of minutes? Does it matter that he’s typically deployed against the opposing team’s top line if the Sens get thoroughly thrashed when he’s on the ice? Truthfully, a part of me wishes the team would trade him just so we could put an end to these incessant debates. Then we can move on to more important things, like: “Did the Sens make the right choice by drafting Brady Tkachuk instead of Filip Zadina?”

I kid.

On a more serious note, the once untouchable Ceci is seemingly available to be traded before this year’s deadline — if the price is right. The seams in the team and player’s relationship first began to appear last summer when they were unable to negotiate a contract extension for the restricted free agent and the two sides were forced into arbitration. Arbitration is an adversarial process that can be downright nasty at times; there’s a reason the overwhelming majority of disputes are resolved before the proceedings begin. Besides any potential lingering hard feelings, there’s also the practical reality that Ceci will once again be a restricted free agent this summer and I’m not sure that his play has increased his standing in the eyes of management.

A quick refresher on how this season has gone for Ceci, courtesy of hockeyviz.com — operated by friend of the site, Micah McCurdy:

The Sens’ shots for with Ceci on the ice
https://hockeyviz.com/fixedImg/teamShotLocOffWi/1819/OTT/cecixco93/wrap
The Sens’ shots against with Ceci on the ice
https://hockeyviz.com/fixedImg/teamShotLocDefWi/1819/OTT/cecixco93/wrap

So if the Sens are going to set about trading Ceci, what could they expect to get in return? The days of trading him for an established player (hello, Jonathan Drouin!) are long past, but it’s not inconceivable that some other team might look at the heavy minutes he’s logging and talk themselves into seeing if they can’t rehabilitate his career. Ceci is still only 25 years old, and at one point held a fair amount of cachet around the league. For whatever else you might say about him, he’s a good skater with good size and a first round pedigree. If nothing else, he could be sold as a reclamation project to the right team.

Since I’m not an insider I don’t have any great knowledge as to who the Sens have been talking to about Ceci, but the Edmonton Oilers have been mentioned by several of the usual suspects in the past few months. Edmonton’s actually a good approximation of the kind of team that I think would be interested in trading for the defenseman: they have great need on the blue line but they also aren’t so bad that they’re desperately hoarding their draft picks. A team like the Red Wings, for instance, could use all the help they can get on their blue line but they’re also nearly as bad as Ottawa and I’d be surprised if they wanted to do any kind of trade that reduced their number of draft picks. Teams like the Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks would all make some degree of sense to me along with the Oilers. If the asking price is a second or a third round pick, why not try to take a shot on a 25 year old defenseman to see if they can’t fill a need for your team? Those are the types of teams that I think the Sens should be targeting, and that’s the type of return that I think is at least somewhat realistic.

There’s still some uncertainty as to whether Ottawa really is all that interested in trading Ceci at all; he’s typically only ever mentioned as potential candidate after the usual big names. But that doesn’t change the fact that he’s really truly being mentioned, and that the Sens don’t seem quite so hell bent on extracting a king’s ransom for him as they once were. Maybe this time really is different. The chance to trade Ceci to upgrade the team in the near term has passed, but with a bit of creativity there’s probably a way to acquire some assets that will help set up the team for the future.