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The Edmonton Oilers Finding an Upgrade on Cody Ceci: Harder Than You Think

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Photo credit:Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
24 days ago
The idea of adding a top-pairing, right-shot defenceman ahead of the trade deadline is a divisive topic among Nation Citizens right now.
On one hand, everyone has seen the impact that adding Mattias Ekholm had last year and it’s easy to get excited about how good a right-shot version of Ekholm would make this Oilers blue line. At the same time, the Oilers have been running Darnell Nurse and Cody Ceci quite consistently over the last two and a half seasons, and the results haven’t been bad.
Over 193 regular season games, the duo has played together for 2,221 minutes at 5v5 and the Oilers have outscored their opposition 102-95 in that span. Now, a lot of you will point out that they get a decent amount of time on the ice with Connor McDavid, and while that will obviously help you outscore your opponent, it’s also worth noting that the Nurse and Ceci pairing also goes head-to-head against the other teams best players on a lot of nights.
To say Nurse and Ceci is a bad pairing would just be flat-out wrong. They’re perfectly fine.
That said, I also think there is a lot of merit to the idea of upgrading Cody Ceci ahead of the trade deadline on March 8th. It just has to be a perfect fit for it to make sense.
The Oilers are obviously pressed right up against the cap, and teams in their situation need players who outperform their cap hits.
You can be against the idea of using Cody Ceci as a top-pairing defenseman, but the truth is that he’s been giving the Oilers top-pairing minutes for basically a full season now, and he only costs them $3.25 million against the cap. If you’re going to replace Ceci, it will be tough to do it with a player making a similar amount to him.
The other side of this is chemistry. He and Darnell Nurse have spent a lot of time together over the last few seasons and while there are players out there, like Jakob Chychrun, who might look like upgrades on paper, you never know how a new partner will mesh with Darnell Nurse, who at times can play a bit of an unpredictable style of hockey.
Again, I am not against the idea of trading Cody Ceci and finding an upgrade on the right side of the blue line. It just needs to be a slam-dunk fit and when I look around the NHL right now, I don’t see a player like that on the market.
Frank Seravalli dropped his most recent Trade Targets list over at Daily Faceoff and there are ten defensemen on the board. I don’t think any of them are perfect fits.
1 – Chris Tanev: Would be a solid upgrade on Ceci, but the Flames will want the Oilers to overpay big time and that probably makes this move highly unlikely. For that reason, not a perfect fit.
2 – Noah Hanifin: Plays the wrong side of the ice.
3 – Sean Walker: Love his cap hit and love the bounce-back season that he’s having, but he’s not better than Ceci. He won’t cost that much, but I view him more as a 5-6-7 defenseman than a top-pairing upgrade on Ceci.
4 – Jakob Chychrun: I really like the player, but he’s a left-shot so it’s not a great fit. I know he can play the right side, but he’s not as effective there and also, I worry that he and Darnell Nurse could be a bit too chaotic of a duo. Not a perfect fit so he’s not worth giving up multiple ‘A’ level assets for in my opinion.
5 – Brett Kulak: He’s already an Oiler.
6 – Alexandre Carrier: He’s a cheap, right-shot defenseman who is strong in his own end. Is he an upgrade on Cody Ceci though? No. He would be an upgrade on Desharnais, but I’m not interested in spending more money on this team’s third pairing.
7 – Tyson Barrie: Been there, done that.
8 – Nick Seeler: Love the player, love the contract. He’d be a dream add as a seventh defenseman for a playoff run but it sounds like the Flyers are going to re-sign him. Also, he’s obviously not an upgrade on Ceci.
9 – Tony DeAngelo: Definitely not what the Oilers need.
10 – Andrew Peeke/Adam Boqvist: Neither is better than Ceci. Don’t love the term on Peeke’s deal and Boqvist is just more a expensive version of Philip Broberg.
So there you go. Ten options on Frank’s list and none of them are the kind of clear-cut upgrades that Mattias Ekholm was. There are issues with acquiring all of them. I love Tanev, but Calgary isn’t just going to give him to you for market value. They’ll send him somewhere else so they don’t have to deal with the negative PR of having helped the Oilers win a Stanley Cup.
Last year, when Ekholm popped up on the Trade Targets board, my jaw hit the floor. It was obvious that he was the exact kind of player that the Oilers needed, and it was worth giving up multiple high-end assets for him. This year, that kind of defenseman just isn’t out there. At least not yet.

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