Canucks: Could Cody Ceci be a fit on their blueline?

The Vancouver Canucks have been one of the busier NHL teams over the past few weeks.

The organization made its biggest wave on Friday afternoon when they acquired defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forward Connor Garland from the Arizona Coyotes. This blockbuster deal supplied the Canucks with two effective players that will make an immediate impact on the roster, while also providing them with $12 million of collective cap relief from their veteran trio in Loui Eriksson, Jay Beagle and Antoine Roussel.

Of course, the money’s never as simple as that.

By bringing on Ekman-Larsson, the Canucks are now responsible for his $7.260 million cap hit for the next six seasons. They’ll also need to finalize a contract extension for Garland, who is set to become an RFA on July 28th. According to Dave Pagnotta of The Fourth Period, it appears that contract negotiations are fortunately going in the right direction for Garland. However, there’s no doubt that Garland will want a decent raise from his previous $775,000 AAV, and might look at Sam Bennett’s newest contract as a reasonable comparison.

Financial implications aside, it can definitely be said that General Manager Jim Benning was able to address a few key needs from the deal with Arizona.

He was able to land a top-four blueliner that can log heavy minutes in Ekman-Larsson, while also bringing in a highly-talented and underrated forward in Garland that should immediately slide into the top-six forward group. However, given that Ekman-Larsson is a left-handed defenceman, and that most reports still indicate that Nate Schmidt will likely be on his way out before the start of next season, Benning still needs to fix the glaring holes on the right side of his blueline behind Tyler Myers. This is easier said than done, especially since the team has been lacking suitable blueline depth on the right side since the departure of Troy Stecher and Chris Tanev last offseason.

However, this situation should be on the top of Benning’s to-do list over the next few days, and he’ll definitely have to be financially creative when it comes to finding a solution that is well under budget.

Enter Cody Ceci.

The 2020-21 season was the first time that Ceci had played for a non-Ontario team, having previously suited up for the Ottawa Senators for six seasons, as well as the Toronto Maple Leafs for one season. The Senators chose Ceci with their 15th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, but he never seemed to live up to his first round potential. His most productive season came in 2018-19 when he racked up seven goals and 19 assists in 74 games, but that’s far from the offensive production he posted in the OHL prior to being drafted.

He also has a career plus/minus rating of -35.

The 6’2, 210 pound right-shot defenceman signed with Pittsburgh in the 2020 offseason, hoping that he’d be able to create more success in his overall game. In 53 games with the Penguins, Ceci posted an average TOI of 18:13, which was below his career average of 21:04. However, he also registered a Corsi For (CF) percentage of 48.52% at even strength, which was a 3.6% improvement of his career average, as well as his fourth-highest CF percentage in eight seasons.

He posted these stats while suiting up for an even 50/50 split of offensive and defensive zone starts at even strength.

Yes, these aren’t the greatest analytical numbers, but they do indicate that Ceci can still be a solid blueline option, as long as he isn’t relied upon as a top-two defenceman. Based on his minutes and on-ice assignments in Pittsburgh, Ceci was considered their fourth or fifth-best defenceman in their line-up, and that’s the exact role he’d take on in the Canucks’ current roster structure.

Plus, even though Ceci’s defensive responsibilities decreased in Pittsburgh, he was still able to improve his overall gameplay.

All in all, Ceci is a tough, two-way defenceman that can exhibit strong puck-handling and passing abilities without creating too many defensive breakdowns on a consistent basis. He can also providing stability each night that he plays. Ceci was paid $1.25 million last year, and could realistically sign a similar deal during the offseason, which wouldn’t break the bank in Vancouver.

Vancouver seems to have filled their need for more offensive-minded defencemen in Quinn Hughes, Jack Rathbone and possibly even Ekman-Larsson if he can rediscover some of his older form, which means they must now look to defencemen that focus more on defensive fundamentals. Given their current blueline needs and financial situation, the Canucks could look to Ceci as a cheap option that can fit into their third-pairing while also sliding into their second pairing if needed.

The free agency period is set to open on July 28th at 9am PST.

What are your thoughts on Cody Ceci? Could he be a nice fit in Vancouver? Let us know in the comments!