Cody Ceci, of course, is a Penguin — now what? (2024)

Cody Ceci, of course, is a Penguin — now what? (1)

By Sean Gentille and Rob Rossi

Oct 17, 2020

Some moves, for better or worse, make too much sense not to happen. The Penguins — with a passing need for another right-handed defenseman and a penchant for a certain type of player — pulled off one of those Saturday afternoon.

Pittsburgh and Cody Ceci, a 27-year-old who spent last season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, agreed on a one-year, $1.25 million contract, as confirmed by The Athletic. The deal leaves the Penguins with about $1.3 million in salary-cap space and likely sets their opening night defensive group, with Ceci presumably slotting in on the third pair with either Mike Matheson, acquired via trade with Florida earlier this month, or Marcus Pettersson.

So, let’s start with the obvious: Why Ceci, and why now?

Sean Gentille: The smart-ass answer is “Jim Rutherford loves having an analytics punching bag on the roster, and Jack Johnson’s departure opened up a spot.” Ceci’s numbers are bad and have been for years, and he bottomed out in Toronto on a $4.5 million, one-year deal after leaving the Senators. He played more than 20 minutes a game, which counts for something; he also had seven points while ranking at the bottom of the Leafs’ roster in possession stats and expected-goals percentage and generally serving as an object of scorn for Toronto fans.

Committing big minutes to a sub-replacement-level guy who already plays too much? Yeah, of course he’s here.

Rob Rossi: It seems like only yesterday that Sean and I were discussing the merits of the Penguins playing Chad Ruhwedel on the right side on a third defense pairing because his value at a $700,000 cap hit was higher than any of the remaining free agents who would have cost at least $1 million.

Oh, wait … that was only yesterday. We had that conversation Friday afternoon!

By now, it’s rinse, wash and repeat with Penguins. They’re betting on second-chance players, figuring one-season deals won’t kill them in what’s looking like a flat-cap future for the NHL.

And it’s not the worst strategy. It’s a pretty good one, actually.

Unless, of course, the second-chance players aren’t all that much better than internal options.

Ruhwedel’s average annual value, combined with his demonstrated dependability when given chances to play regularly — dependability is an undervalued “ability” if ever there was one — was a major roster-management victory for the cap-strapped Penguins. Committing a combined $2.4 million in space to Ceci and Juuso Riikola, one of whom won’t play when everybody’s healthy, is inexplicably turning a plus into a minus just because it was a day that ended in “day.”


The Penguins are in win-now mode. They’re going about the offseason by bargain shopping for bottom-six forwards and either overpaying (or paying to play someplace else) bottom-pairing defensem*n.

Gentille: Yeah, I guess I said “Ruhwedel is OK and cheap. They could use another one of him,” too loudly. Whoops. Ceci isn’t just more expensive; he’s worse.

The issue is going to be less about the opportunity cost, from a cap standpoint; the Penguins were always going to sign another defenseman, and there simply aren’t many right-handed depth guys worth having around on the market. In short, somebody was always going to wind up being signed for $1 million or so, and Ceci as the spare on the right side wouldn’t be, at face value, a disaster for the Penguins. The issue is he’s probably not going to be the spare guy. He’s going to play regular minutes. And that historically hasn’t worked out for his teams, largely because he brings almost nothing to the table offensively.

And Rob, I’m OK with it being labeled as a “second-chance deal” — but not a “bounce-back” deal, which you’ll probably see in some spots. There’s not much of a past performance level for Ceci to find. Can he improve? Can he benefit from different usage here than in Toronto and Ottawa? Sure, maybe — but, again, we’ve already been over this. “Jack Johnson on a third pair won’t kill you” was a common talking point in 2018 — and he then, in fact, did kill them. Ceci profiles similarly. He hasn’t been as bad as Johnson — though few have — and one year for $1.25 million isn’t in the same stratosphere as the deal Johnson signed lo those many years ago. That alone is important enough. He’s paid like a third-pairing defenseman, and his performance level has been at least in the neighborhood. They gave Johnson second-pair money, said he was a third-pair guy, often played him like a first-pair guy and got AHL-guy performance. Ceci’s situation isn’t going to come close. He’s locked in behind Kris Letang and John Marino.

There’s also not going to be any reason for Rutherford or Sullivan to double down as they did with Johnson. It’s easy to bench or dump a player with that contract versus, say, a guy who signed for five years and $16.25 million. He’s still likely to at least start out in the lineup, though, and that — based on all available evidence — could be a problem.


But yeah, Ceci, Johnson and Erik Gudbranson all on the same roster within 12 months. Wild. Throw in Matheson, and you’ve got a whole bunch of guys who’ve had a whole bunch of jokes made at their expense, whether over their play, their contracts or both.

Rossi: Can we also address the “younger” part of Rutherford’s “faster and younger” mandate? Using Feb. 1 as the cutoff date, the Penguins’ average age on defense was 28.3 last season. It will be 27.8 this season. That’s not nothing, but it’s also not much.

As things stand, I have more questions about the Penguins’ defense corps than I do answers.

Is Kris Letang capable of pushing beyond his comfort zone and adapting his game to dominate as the Penguins need? (Basically, can he do what Evgeni Malkin did last season?) Don’t know.

Is John Marino going to progress or regress after a promising rookie season? Don’t know.

Is Pettersson going to bounce back after regressing in his second season? Don’t know.

Is Brian Dumoulin going to be the pre- or post-ankle surgery version of himself? Don’t know.

By the way, those are the defensem*n I’d feel confident bringing to training camp were I coaching the Penguins. But I’m not Sullivan, and while I wouldn’t mind collecting his paycheck, I’d be working hard for that money when considering those questions and the more obvious ones:

Is Matheson a good fit, as opposed to a stylistic one? What does Ceci do that Ruhwedel can’t? And, of course, when the GM said he wanted Riikola to play more, did he mean on defense or at forward?

OK, so Sullivan knows well and good that Rutherford’s preference is to see Riikola dress more regularly to play defense. But over whom?

Don’t know.

It’s fine the Penguins are an average of five months younger on defense than they were last season. Thing is, that’s all anybody really knows about the group — and, again, this is a win-now club.


Gentille: A win-now club that’s using almost $5 million in cap space on Johnson, Ceci and Nick Bjugstad. Throw in Riikola’s contract and you’re around $6 million on two guys who aren’t here anymore, another the coach seems to have no use for and another who probably makes you worse than a cheaper in-house replacement. You can do a lot with $6 million. A whole lot.

Rossi: Sean, I’m about to call you. Wanted to discuss trading for Marc-Andre Fleury. And the Powerball.

(Photo: Mark Blinch / NHLI via Getty Images)

Cody Ceci, of course, is a Penguin — now what? (2024)


Cody Ceci, of course, is a Penguin — now what? ›

Cody Ceci (born December 21, 1993) is a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman currently playing for the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League (NHL).

How much do cody ceci make? ›

2021-2024 Free Agent

Cody Ceci signed a 4 year , $13,000,000 contract with the Edmonton Oilers, including $13,000,000 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $3,250,000. In 2024-25, Ceci will earn a base salary of $3,500,000, while carrying a cap hit of $3,250,000.

Who are the former Penguins on the Canucks? ›

The Canucks are loaded with ex-Penguins; including of course coach Rick Tocchet, GM Patrik Allvin, President Jim Rutherford and untold number of lower level staffers that jumped west in addition to the five roster players that are on the Canucks.

Is Cody Ceci good? ›

Impact Ceci has two helpers over his last four contests. The 30-year-old defenseman isn't relied on for offense, though he's had mixed results overall in 2023-24. He's at 20 points, 83 shots on net, 100 blocked shots, 77 hits and a plus-5 rating through 70 appearances.

Is Cody Ceci married? ›

Congrats to Cody & his wife Jamie on the birth of their healthy baby girl. Welcome to Oil Country, Sawyer Ceci 💙🧡

Is Cody Ceci still playing hockey? ›

Cody Ceci (born December 21, 1993) is a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman currently playing for the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League (NHL).

How much does Logan Couture make a year? ›

Why is the Canucks mascot a whale? ›

This excerpt from spirits of the west coast symbolizes what the Orca means for Indigenous people and brings Vancouver back to where we come from. "“The Native Orca Symbol or Killer Whales symbolizes family, romance, longevity, harmony, travel, community and protection.

Who is the NHL Penguins star? ›

Sidney Crosby

Who is 43 on the Penguins? ›

Lars Eller20C
Jansen Harkins43C
Evgeni Malkin71C
Matt Nieto83LW
11 more rows

Who is CC on the Edmonton Oilers? ›

Cody Ceci Stats And News.

Did Cody Ceci have a baby? ›

Yesterday we welcomed our baby girl Sawyer Stella Ceci to the world.

Are Cody Ceci and Mark Stone related? ›

Stone is the brother in law of Cody Ceci, who currently plays for the Edmonton Oilers; Stone and Ceci are married to sisters Hayley and Jamie, who Stone and Ceci both met when they played for the Ottawa Senators. The Stones welcomed their first child, a girl, on March 20, 2023.

What kind of dog does Cody Ceci have? ›

Cody thought he might never see her again after that night, but seven years later, the pair has settled down and made a home together (alongside their two French Bulldogs, of course).

Does Darnell Nurse have an NMC? ›

Nurse has a NMC and can veto a trade until 2027 at which point it becomes a 10 team no trade list for the last 3 years of his contract.

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