The Senators will pay defenseman Cody Ceci $4.3 million during the 2018-19 season, an NHL arbitrator ruled Friday.
Ceci, a restricted free agent, and the Senators became the second NHL case this summer to enter into arbitration as the sides failed to reach agreement on a long-term contract extension before Wednesday’s hearing. Ceci’s camp reportedly sought a contract worth $6 million per season; Ottawa countered with $3.35 million.
The contract decision, good for one year, skewed low toward the team’s interests, a departure from arbitration norms that typically favor players.
Ceci, 24, can enter into arbitration again following the 2018-19 season unless the sides agree on a long-term contract before then. Further extension talks must wait until Jan. 1, however.
I don’t believe discussions on an extension reached beyond $4 mil in first couple of years, hence no deal was reached. https://t.co/S7TpOmqj6r
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) August 3, 2018
The Senators’ 2015 first-round draft pick, now a veteran of 366 NHL games, presented something of a polarizing case. He’s long been groomed as the organization’s top defense prospect with first-pairing potential. Short of that, Ceci has yet to deliver on such promise. He’s coming of a season of five goals and 19 points, playing 23:20 per game, but has become known as one of the league’s biggest possession liabilities much of his career.
Cody Ceci turned the puck over on 16.4% of his defensive zone possessions last season. That ranked him 232nd out of 272 qualified defenceman. Yet, it ranked 3rd best amongst Senators defencemen. So, that’s pretty much where Ceci and the Senators are at.
— Mike Kelly (@MikeKellyNHL) August 3, 2018
Should the Senators eventually follow through on long-standing talks to trade Erik Karlsson, their captain and arguably the NHL’s top defenseman, Ceci would assume the mantle as a de facto No. 1 on the Sens’ blue line, for better or worse. He now has a full season to prove he’s worthy of a long-term investment.
If and when the Senators and Ceci do resume contract negotiations when eligible, it will become a part of series of fascinating decisions that could determine the future of the franchise. Also on Friday, Ottawa avoided arbitration with leading scorer Mark Stone, agreeing to a one-year contract worth $7.35 million. The Stone case surprised some who expected longer term. The Sens must wait until Jan. 1 to discuss an extension with Stone, too.
Stone joins Karlsson and top center Matt Duchene in the final year of their contracts. All three could become unrestricted free agents in 2019, provided none are traded before then. The Senators already have parted with Mike Hoffman this offseason and are expected to soon sell off more veterans, namely Karlsson.