26 year old defenseman Cody Ceci will be an unrestricted free agent when the 2019-2020 season finally ends. He’s coming off a one year, 4.5 million dollar contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a post-season exit interview, Toronto’s General Manager Kyle Dubas praised Ceci, stating he has performed above expectations and suggesting the analytical data available to the team internally from the NHL’s tracking technology support the Leaf’s rather extensive use of the blueliner. Ceci played 56 games during the regular season and all 5 of the Leaf’s qualifying round playoff games before they were knocked out of the race by the Columbus Blue Jackets, clearly showing the organization has confidence in their top pairing RD.
Leafs fans, however, have an altogether different view.
A quick search of Ceci brings up posts like this one:
Now obviously NHL fans are not always right — our own fanbase thought we were going to be a contending team after last offseason after all — and Leafs fans are notoriously brutal when players make mistakes, but its definitely worth looking into why an entire fanbase seems convinced a particular player is the second coming of the traffic cone.
Bad, or just Misunderstood?
Lets take a look at some of those fancy shmancy analytics Dubas referenced—
Ceci has made an impact on Toronto’s performance for sure, but it does not look like the type of impact they would have wanted— especially for a 4.5million dollar contract.
It’s easy to see how Ceci’s numbers from the past earned him a one year shot with the Leafs this year. He’s been fairly consistent in the past, not great but not bad, and the 2018-2019 season was a strong year for him in Ottawa. Key word here being Ottawa. Ceci might’ve been an improvement over the struggles the Senators have had the past couple seasons but once he made it to the Leafs the inflated stats couldn’t hold up. He’s in the bottom 5 of the Leafs in CF%, FF%, SF%, xGF%, and SCF%. Sometimes playing on the top pairing can explain brutal stats for a defenseman since they’re exposed to other teams best offenses, but not in this case; his partner Morgan Reilly is roughly 10% better than Ceci in every one of those categories.
The Devils haven’t exactly been the strongest team defensively either, but this isn’t what we need in my opinion.
For fans of the eye-test, I offer you this visual aid:
Cody Ceci genuinely one of the most hilarious players in the entire league pic.twitter.com/3usS9WKRYk— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) August 10, 2020
What About the Money?
Presumably, Ceci is going to want to be paid some form of salary— his stats are a solid argument against paying him more than 15 cents and a tootsie roll in my opinion, but he’s probably going to be asking at least half of his current 4.5mil to sign another one year trial deal. We do have room with a projected 8.7 million dollar cap space, but we need to weaponize that smartly and add talent, not expensive pylons. Its just not worth the waste of money to an organization like the Devils that cannot afford any more bad additions.
Don’t Walk, RUN AWAY
If nothing else, consider this my plea to the Devils organization to spare the sanity of their fans by not making us even more of a mockery than we were after our depressing pseudo-rise and fall this past season. Please, for the love of all that is hockey, sign a better defenseman than Cody Ceci.
Should the Devils give Ceci a shot? If not, what UFA defenseman would you target this offseason? Let us know in the comments, and thanks for reading!