The Toronto Maple Leafs have holes in their roster. While they look to plug them they should also be shopping defenseman Cody Ceci.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in an odd position. They are both in need of, and have an excess of defense. They could really use someone to help improve the blueline but also have a well-paid player who is an NHLer on any roster, Cody Ceci.
The Toronto Maple Leafs never know what they’ll be getting from Ceci. Some nights he stands out with a solid game, but then he turns in a historically awful performance the next.
The team needs consistent defenders who help them protect their own end. Since that doesn’t fit with Ceci’s current style of play, general manager Kyle Dubas needs to trade him.
The Leafs acquired the six-foot two-inch 210 pounds Dman in a July 1 transaction with the Ottawa Senators. It sent Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Brown, and minor-league forward Michael Carcon to the Sens for Ceci.
Fellow defenseman Ben Harpur, minor-league forward Aaron Luchuk and a third-round pick in this year’s draft all came to Toronto in the exchange.
The Toronto Maple Leafs then followed the trade by immediately signing Ceci to a one year $4.5 million contract.
How Ceci Has Fit on the Team
Ceci started the season as one of Coach Mike Babcock’s preferred players on the roster.
He played the majority of his minutes on the Leafs top pairing, a place he should never have found himself. He was also the team’s leader for time on ice for multiple games. It appeared as though Ceci was filling the hole in Babcock’s Ron Hainsey shaped void.
The former first-round, 15th overall pick has been dropped down the lineup since Sheldon Keefe has been on-board.
Ceci now plays on the third pairing with Travis Dermott, which is a far more suitable position. It also helps that Dermott can cover for some of Ceci’s errors.
The stats, according to Natural Stattrick, do not paint a positive picture of Ceci’s play. He has a Corsi rating of 50.5 per cent which -4.3 per cent relative to his team. He does, however, show some positives. He is a solid shot-blocker and though it’s a misleading statistic, he is +9 this season.
Ceci’sCorsi has actually improved since the early part of the season and he has proven that he can log big minutes if necessary. This helps improve Ceci’s value.
The Possible Return
Other teams may look at Ceci and see a player that could fit with their current group, especially if they are in need of a defenseman. Dubas should pull the trigger if he can get anything that he feels is a fair deal. That means the return for Ceci would not be anything close to a star or potential star player.
A swap for Ceci could net the Leafs nothing more than a third or a fourth-round pick. Even if that’s the case, they should take it. Waiting in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies are capable replacements.
They include Harpur, Jordan Schmaltz, and Kevin Gravel. While it appears as though, Dubas is trying to protect the pair of young defensemen, he also has the option to call up future studs Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren.
In the event that Toronto does manage to trade Ceci to another club, they would be happy with the salary cap relief alone.
It could then be used in a transaction to bring the team another player. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Toronto would find someone to fill the entire $4.5 million, but it does give them flexibility if they have eyes on a player that fits within that number.
With their backup goaltender, Michael Hutchinson, being unable to inspire confidence, they could very well be targeting his replacement.
Whether Ceci gets included in a deal to make that happen has yet to be seen, but with Ceci’s value as high as it’s been, now is the time to start exploring.
With the trade deadline on February 24, the Leafs have some time to work out the best possible deal for Ceci. Hopefully, they are able to get a deal done and maximize their return.