Ottawa Senators are in for Tough Negotiations with Cody Ceci

Dec 10, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Ottawa Senators defenseman Cody Ceci (5) skates with the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) defends during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 10, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Ottawa Senators defenseman Cody Ceci (5) skates with the puck as Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) defends during the second period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The Mike Hoffman contract dispute would normally be enough stress for any general manager to have to deal with in an offseason, but Pierre Dorion and the rest of the front office of the Ottawa Senators also have the impasse with Cody Ceci to try to navigate through.

The Ceci situation is in a lot of ways more difficult to predict than the Hoffman scenario. With Hoffman, arbitration serves as a clear milestone that will provide closure.

The two sides can still negotiate up until the arbitration hearing, and whatever the arbitrator decides, it is up to the team to either agree to pay the player that money or reject the deal, making that player instantly an unrestricted free agent.

The Senators aren’t rejecting the Hoffman deal the arbitrator settles on, and considering that they won last offseason, they’re probably pretty confident that they’ll win again.

If Hoffman gets a 1 year contract in arbitration, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next offseason, and could very well leave Ottawa.

Whether Hoffman is in Ottawa beyond next season is questionable, but at the very least, he should be in uniform for the 2016-2017 season skating for the Senators.

The Ceci situation is way more unpredictable at this point. He doesn’t have arbitration rights, so there is no set date for an end to his negotiations.

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The closest milestone Ceci could hope to settle by would probably be training camp or even the regular season, depending on whether he is concerned about missing valuable time with the team.

The outcome is largely dependent on not only how far apart Dorion and Ceci are in terms of contractual numbers as of now (which sounds like very far) and the willingness of either side to budge, which is harder to anticipate.

Like Hoffman, Ceci probably feels as though he has earned long term security, but the team remains unconvinced. Their apprehension with Hoffman is seemingly due to his inconsistency, while their Ceci hesitations might be due to his relative inexperience in the NHL.

Ceci was a 1st round pick in 2012, and his NHL point totals have increased from 9, to 21, to 26 during his brief career. There have been no visible setbacks with his development, so the caution on their part is surprising.

Guy Boucher is arriving as the new coach, and there’s always fair concern with a player’s ability to adapt to a new system, but Boucher is going to be Ceci’s 3rd coach. It hasn’t been a problem yet.

Ceci might be seeing the contract that Morgan Rielly just got from the Maple Leafs and viewing himself in that same category.

They were both first round picks in 2012, and prior to the draft, the NHL Central Scouting Bureau named Rielly the #5 North American prospect and Ceci the #6 North American prospect.

Rielly ended up going number 5 overall to the Maple Leafs, while Ceci went number 15 overall to the Senators.

Seeing his peer getting that type of money from the other team in Ontario could very well be setting the bench mark for what Ceci thinks he’s worth, and although he’s a talented player, he hasn’t earned the type of money that Rielly just signed for.

Rielly’s worst point total in the NHL for a season is better than Ceci’s best. Rielly just got a contract for 6 years and $30 million.

Ceci’s case is based around potential, but the front office of the Senators is correct in not wanting to give Ceci as much money as a defenseman who has proven to be better than him as of now.

There’s a lot of teams around the league who would jump at the opportunity to acquire a talented, puck-moving blue-liner like Ceci. Rival teams are smelling blood in the water right now, and all it takes is one team to be willing to make a hefty gamble on the type of defenseman that Ceci can become.

This is where the Senators find themselves in a difficult predicament. If Ceci is as stubborn as can possibly be, they may have no choice but to trade him. They can get valuable assets for a player like Ceci at this point in his young career.

If they don’t like any of the trade offers, but want Ceci to remain with the team, they’d have to take a leap of faith that Ceci would be worth a long term investment.

If the Senators are as stubborn as can possibly be and don’t budge at all in negotiations, then they can force Ceci to sit out until he agrees to their terms.

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It will be fascinating to see how it all plays out. The Hoffman drama is tame compared to the showdown with Ceci. Hopefully a resolution happens soon, but that sounds doubtful at this point.