Senators’ Cody Ceci awarded $4.3 million deal in arbitration

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Hours after the Ottawa Senators announced a one-year extension for Mark Stone, an arbitrator sided closer to the team’s case following their hearing with defenseman Cody Ceci.

Ceci, 25, elected for the hearing and was seeking $6 million, while the Senators offered $3.35 million. The arbitrator decided on a $4.3M salary for one season.

If no extension is reached by next summer, Ceci will once again be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights.

Last season, Ceci scored five goals and recorded 19 points in 82 games. He led all Senators defensemen not named Erik Karlsson in time on ice with 23:20 per night, the second straight season he’s played that many minutes a game.

His underlying numbers are not good, however, as Silver Seven Sens pointed out earlier this week:

“Ceci finished the season ranked 131st out of 133 defensemen in terms of even-strength puck possession with a negative 43.76 Corsi. He also held the honours for being the defenseman with the highest amount of shots attempted against with 1862. All in all, Cody Ceci has been on the decline for the past 2 seasons and has not been showing any signs of revival.”

Late bloomer? The Senators would certainly hope so, and Ceci’s one-year deal puts general manager Pierre Dorion in an interesting position before next summer. At the moment, Ottawa currently has nine players — Stone, Matt Duchene and Erik Karlsson included — set to become unrestricted free agents and three scheduled to become RFAs on July 1, 2019. That should spell a lot of change for the roster, one that sorely needs an overhaul. 

So as we wait for the inevitable Karlsson (and maybe Bobby Ryan, too) trade, Dorion has a massive job ahead of him in turning a team with likely a high lottery pick next June back into a playoff team.

But the big issue, as in the Stone case, is Dorion’s inability to lock up the team’s best players long-term. It was a big move in acquiring Duchene last October, but it all went in the wrong direction and the only three players signed beyond 2020 are Ryan, Marian Gaborik (buyout candidate) and Zack Smith. Who would want to commit to losing for the next several years?

What once was looking like a strong core to build around is falling apart and there doesn’t appear to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.